The U.S. Department of Transportation took action in late June as the Government of India (GoI) was found to discriminate against U.S. carriers and had served Air India with an order requiring them to seek 30 day advance permission before operating any Third- and/or Fourth-Freedom charter flights.
It appears that the U.S. Government has now come to an agreement with the GoI and the order against Air India has been rescinded (for now) and both U.S. carriers and Air India are free to do business again.
The entire issue came up when India initiated their flight ban but it was impossible for U.S. carriers to operate charter flights to India in order to pick up American citizens or anyone eligible for a repatriation flight including Permanent Residents etc.
Here is the order issue and sent by the DOT in late June:
Noteworthy here the following reasoning:
… We are taking this action because the Government of India (GoI) has impaired the operating rights of U.S. carriers and has engaged in discriminatory and restrictive practices with respect to U.S. carrier services to and from India.
Annex II of the U.S.-India Air Transport Agreement (“the Agreement”) provides that designated carriers under the Agreement “have the right to carry international charter traffic of passengers (and their accompanying baggage) and/or cargo between any point or points in the territory of the Party that has designated the airline and any point or points in the territory of the other Party.”
The GoI has imposed restrictions that prevent U.S. air carriers from making full use of these charter rights. Specifically, the GoI has prevented U.S. carriers from conducting India-U.S. passenger charter operations involving direct sales to individual passengers or through other distribution systems. …
This apparently got the Indian government’s attention as the DOT directly called out their unilateral restrictions imposed upon other countries and told them the U.S. isn’t gonna have any of this.
Delta Air Lines and United have both been eyeing flights to India in order to resume business and this has been agreed to in a manner comfortable for all parties.
The DOT has given notice on Friday that the order has been rescinded until further notice:
The Department and other U.S. Government agencies have continued to work with the GoI towards satisfactory resolution of this matter. In that connection, recent positive developments have led the Department to determine at this time that the public interest calls for removal, until further order of the Department, of the charter prior approval requirement that we had imposed on Air India.
We notify National Aviation Company of India Limited d/b/a Air India that we are rescinding the requirements of Ordering Paragraphs 1 and 2 of Order 2020-6-13 until further order of the Department;
We may amend, modify, or revoke this Order at any time and without hearing;
This also serves as a warning to the Indian Government that the DOT will be watching the actions of the GoI and should there be any further developments showing that the Indians are applying regulations in bad faith then the order would go back into effect.
This hasn’t just affected flights from the U.S. but also many other countries which are of course not subject to this agreement.
Generally speaking the diplomatic and trading relationship between India and the U.S. has been good and quite reliable over the years but the Indian Government is indeed sneaky and often tries to squeak by with things that aren’t in the strictest sense of the term reciprocal or let’s say in the spirit of good faith. It’s good that the DOT put pressure on in this case to keep them honest.