Go First has stopped operating the Srinagar-Sharjah flights from March 27 as it does not have the requisite bilateral rights.
Airlines need bilateral rights — which are granted under an air services agreement signed between the two countries — to operate scheduled international passenger flights.
Home Minister Amit Shah inaugurated Go First’s Srinagar-Sharjah flight on October 23, 2021, connecting Jammu and Kashmir with the United Arab Emirates after around 11 years.
“We were operating Srinagar-Sharjah-Srinagar flight under air bubble arrangement that was in place till March 26, 2022. All air bubble arrangements were cancelled when India resumed scheduled international passenger flights on March 27, 2022,” Go First spokesperson told PTI.
Scheduled international passenger flights operate under a bilateral air services agreement signed between the two countries, the spokesperson noted.
“Go First stopped operating Srinagar-Sharjah-Srinagar flight from March 27 as it does not have the requisite bilateral rights. Once we have the bilateral rights, we will resume operating flights on this route,” the spokesperson added.
India suspended all scheduled international flights on March 23, 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic. From July 2020 onwards, India started forming bilateral air bubble arrangements with countries, including the UAE, to allow limited passenger flights under specific restrictions.
The stop-gap measure of air bubble arrangements was removed when India resumed scheduled international flights on March 27 this year.
Before a country’s airline can operate international flights to another country, the two have to negotiate and sign a “bilateral air services agreement”, which decides how many total flights (or seats) per week can be allowed to fly from one nation to another.
Once such an agreement is signed, each country is free to allocate these flying rights to its respective airlines. Even after such flying rights are allocated to an airline, it must have slots at both airports to start flight operations.
A slot is a date and time at which an airline’s aircraft are permitted to depart or arrive at an airport. The slots are allocated by a committee that consists of officials from the Civil Aviation Ministry, airport operators, airlines, and Indian aviation regulator DGCA, among others.