India and Canada have signed an “Open Skies Agreement”. This paves the path for enhanced connectivity between the two countries as the two of them look to increase trade and tourism.
Open Skies between India and Canada
During the ongoing G20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau on Monday announced an agreement with India that will enhance connectivity between the two countries.
Today, we are announcing an agreement between Canada and India, that will allow an unlimited number of flights between our two countries. By making the movement of goods and people faster and easier, will facilitate trade and investment between Canada and India and help out businesses grow and succeed.said Trudeau.
Open Skies Agreement means that there can be unlimited number of weekly flights operated between two countries.
The expanded agreement between India and Canada allows designated airlines to operate an unlimited number of flights between the two countries. The previous agreement limited each country’s carriers to operate a maximum of 35-flights-per-week.
The agreement gives Canadian airlines unlimited access to Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad, meaning that airlines from Canada can operate unlimited flights to these cities. Indian airlines can operate unlimited flights to Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton and two additional cities (to be selected by India). Other cities in both countries can be served indirectly through code-share services.
The expanded air transport agreement between Canada and India is a positive development for air transport relations between our countries. We are pleased to expand this relationship with additional flexibility for airlines to serve this growing market. By making the movement of goods and people faster and easier, this expanded agreement will continue to facilitate trade and investment between Canada and India and help our businesses grow and succeedsaid Omar Alghabra, Minister of Transport, Canada.
The Canada-India economic relationship is built on deep-rooted people to people ties. With this expanded air transport agreement, we are facilitating even more exchanges of professionals, students, business people, and investors. As we strengthen our trade and investment relationship with India, we will continue building bridges like this that enable our entrepreneurs, workers, and businesses to access new opportunities.said Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development, Canada.
The new rights under the expanded agreement are available for use by airlines immediately.
Stay up to date: Sign up for my newsletter to never miss latest Aviation and Travel news.
Will nonstop connectivity increase?
The expansion of the agreement comes at a time when the Russian airspace is unavailable to Canadian airlines.
Currently, only two airlines, each from both the countries, operate nonstop flights between India and Canada. These airlines are Air Canada and Air India.
Prior to the closure of Russian airspace, Air Canada used to operate a daily flight from Toronto and Vancouver to Delhi in addition to 3-weekly flights from Montréal to Delhi. In addition, prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, the airline also used to operate winter seasonal nonstop flights between Toronto and Mumbai.
Since the Russian airspace is now closed, Air Canada has been forced to suspend its Vancouver-Delhi route. The airline’s Toronto-Delhi and Montréal-Delhi routes continue to be operated as scheduled before. Air Canada has also returned to Mumbai, with a one-stop flight from Toronto. The carrier is operating the route as Toronto-London Heathrow-Mumbai-London Heathrow-Toronto. The airline has also obtained fifth-freedom rights between London and Mumbai.
The expansion of the agreement is a boon for Air India, an airline which is still able to use (and uses) the Russian airspace.
Under the new ownership, Air India has been getting its grounded aircraft back in the air, Boeing B787-8 Dreamliners and Boeing B777s also. Along with that, the carrier has also leased 5 B777-200LRs (Long Range) aircraft.
Air India has already announced new nonstop flights from Mumbai to San Francisco and New York JFK and the resumption of flights between Bengaluru and San Francisco. Subject to availability of aircraft, Air India may now choose to expand international connectivity between India and Canada. The airline currently operates a daily flight from Delhi to Toronto and Vancouver. The carrier can maybe look to launch nonstop flights to Edmonton, Montreal or Calgary.
It remains to be seen how the carriers will make use of this “Open Skies Agreement”.
Amritsar and Chandigarh not included?
As aforementioned, India has allowed Canadian carriers to operate nonstop flights to 6 cities – Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad. It was interesting to see neither Amritsar nor Chandigarh included in the list.
Canada has a large Punjabi community. The people of Punjabi community often travel between India and Canada, both for business and leisure purpose. The VFR (Visiting Friends and Relative) traffic is very high between Amritsar, Chandigarh and Canada.
The people of Amritsar and Chandigarh (and also those residing in Canada) have long been demanding a nonstop flight to Amritsar (or Chandigarh). Travellers presently have to travel via Delhi in either direction, adding a significant number of hours to their journey time.
The inclusion of Hyderabad and Kolkata seems bizarre to me. Traffic to Canada from these two cities is less as compared to Amritsar and Chandigarh, yet these cities have been ignored.
The Canadian transport minister said that the two countries will continue to work together to expand their Open Skies Agreement to include more cities. Therefore, we can expect Amritsar or Chandigarh to be added to the list.
Overall, it’s good to see India and Canada shift to a Open Skies Agreement, paving the way for enhanced connectivity (hopefully!) between the two countries.
Featured image by Air Canada
What do you think of India and Canada shifting to a Open Skies Agreement? Let me know in the comments section below.