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U.S. Department of Transportation Makes Progress with India in Bilateral Aviation Relations

Thursday, September 3, 2020

On September 3, 2020, the Department initiated the process to lift the suspension of Indian carriers’ authority to self-handle at U.S. airports. The conclusion of this issue will become the second major civil aviation success achieved on a bilateral basis with India this summer, following on the negotiation of the U.S.-India aviation bubble that allowed U.S. carriers to resume passenger services to India. 

The Department has taken this most recent action, through the issuance of a Show Cause Order to amend the permit of Air India, because the Government of India has removed the barriers that have prevented U.S. carriers from exercising rights under the U.S.-India Open Skies Agreement.  Interested parties will have 21 days to submit public comments on Show Cause Order, and 7 days following that period to respond to comments.  Upon the conclusion of the comment periods, the Department issue a final decision taking into account any public comments.  The President will then have 60 days to disapprove that decision.  Upon the expiration of that 60-day period, the change to Air India’s permit will take effect.  The Show Cause Order can be found on www.regulations.gov by searching “Docket- DOT-OST-2019-0066” or “Docket- DOT-OST-2007-0125” or “Docket- DOT-OST-2005-21135.”

Q: What is ground handling?
A: Ground handling refers to the wide range of services provided to facilitate an aircraft in preparation for and upon conclusion of a flight. Common examples include ticketing, check-in, baggage sorting, refueling, and de-icing. 

Q: Do Indian airlines perform their own ground handling (“self-handling”) operations in the United States?
A: Historically, Indian airlines have made the commercial decision to contract with ground handling service providers at U.S. airports rather than self-handling. 

Q: Why is the Department taking this action now?
A: We have initiated this action because we have confirmed that the Government of India is now allowing U.S. carriers to perform the full range of self-handling operations at Indian airports.  Accordingly, we will restore self-handlings opportunities at U.S. airports to Indian air carriers.