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India Signs Open Skies Agreement With Canada

India and Canada have inked an Open Skies agreement, greatly expanding flight rights between the two countries. Airlines will now be able to operate unlimited flights between key cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Toronto, Montreal, and Vancouver, ending the cap of 35 weekly flights. Let’s find out more.

Huge opportunity

After years of being limited to 35 weekly flights, airlines in Canada and India will now have nearly-unlimited rights, thanks to the new Open Skies agreement. Under the deal, Canadian airlines can fly to Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore, Chennai, and Kolkata with no restrictions. Meanwhile, Indian airlines are free to fly to Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, Edmonton, and any two more destinations the Indian government picks.

While still not a fully open market, the decision is a huge step forward for two countries that have historically protected their air rights. India and Canada are tightly linked countries, with a constant stream of leisure, business, and VFR (visiting friends and relatives) visitors, made possible by a large diaspora. More direct flights will be welcomed by all stakeholders.

Looking at the numbers, just over 1.5 million passengers flew from India to Canada in 2019, the last year before COVID disrupted traffic, according to anna.aero. While Toronto-Delhi took the top spot for traffic from North America, most travelers opted for a one-stop connection, adding significant time to the long journey across the globe.

Since 2011, flights have remained fixed at 35 a week, leaving little room for a drastic expansion. While Air Canada added a new Delhi-Montreal service last year, there is room for many more flights, and now, this could be on the horizon.

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A win for two airlines

Flag carriers Air India and Air Canada will be elated at the news of unlimited direct flights. The former recently announced a daily frequency from Delhi to Vancouver on the 777 next summer, while the latter talked about expanding India flights last month. Neither have hit the 35/week restriction, but with more cities now on the table, could they exceed this number?

Air India will be closely eying the Canadian market as a target for its coming fleet of seven 777-200LRs. With Toronto and Vancouver currently served from Delhi, there is room for services from Mumbai and Bangalore, the highest by yield, or perhaps competing with Air Canada in Montreal. Notably, a long-awaited service from Amritsar, Punjab, could be on the table as well.

For Air Canada, the air rights are only one part of the puzzle. Overflight restrictions over Ukraine mean that some of its longest routes, such as Delhi-Vancouver, still remain impossible, limiting the potential of new routes as well. However, when the time is right, Bangalore-Toronto might be the new target, given the high average fare our analysis found. Other potential cities include connections to Calgary, unlikely given the lack of an AC base, and flights to Ahmedabad and Hyderabad, which draw large passenger numbers.

Source : SimpleFlying