India, China aviation officials discuss increasing air connectivity

Amid growing interest of Chinese airlines to increase flight services to India, the aviation authorities of the two countries met in New Delhi after a gap of 10 years and discussed ways to enhance air connectivity. A Civil Aviation Ministry official said the talks on Wednesday and Thursday opened a new chapter in ties. However, the official said, India put forth the difficulties faced by Indian airlines in operating to China, and the Chinese delegation positively offered to address the issues to the best of their ability. The delegation from the two countries agreed to meet again in the near future to take the discussion forward. Civil aviation authorities of India and China met after 10 years to resolve the existing issues. Discussions opened a new chapter in India-China bilateral relationship, enabling exploration of enhanced air connectivity, the ministry said in a tweet. The meeting came at a time when carriers from both the sides are keen to operate more flights into each others territory amid a thaw in Sino-India ties, particularly after Prime Minister Narendra Modis informal summit with Chinese President Xi Jinping in May, according to a ministry source. At present, five Chinese carriers together operate 42 weekly services to three Indian cities – Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata – from five cities in China. Last month, Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey replied in affirmative when asked whether Chinese carriers have expressed interest in expanding their operations in India. According to the source, budget carriers – IndiGo and SpiceJet – whose international operations is confined to the Gulf and Southeast Asia, have plans to spread wings to China. Air China, China Southern, China Eastern, China Airlines and Shangdong Airlines currently flies to India with the China Southern operating the maximum 14 flights per week of the total 42 seats a-week allocated to them. Apart from teh state-owned Air India, Naresh Goyal-promoted Jet Airways is the other carrier flying to China from India through its code-share partner China Eastern Airlines.