A day after US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) downgraded India’s aviation safety rating, US-based United Airlines and American Airlines on Saturday suspended their code sharing agreements with Mumbai-based Jet Airways, one of the two Indian carriers that fly to the US.
Following the FAA announcement, United Airlines said it had halted the use of its booking codes on Jet Airways flights, a practice that lets flyers arrange a seamless trip on jets from both carriers. The move takes effect on Saturday, and passengers are being rebooked, Chicago-based parent United Continental Holdings (UAL) said in an e-mail statement to Bloomberg.
American Airlines, the second US-based airline that had a code sharing agreement with Jet Airways, also withdrew its booking code with Jet. Passengers already have been re-accommodated, said Andrea Huguely, a spokeswoman for Fort Worth, Texas-based American in a press statement.
At present, Jet Airways has code sharing arrangements with two airlines from North America — American Airlines and United Airlines. Jet Airways officials were not available for comment.
As per the FAA, a category 2 safety rating means carriers from the state in question cannot initiate new airline service and are restricted to current levels of any existing service to the US while corrective actions are underway.
FAA also does not support reciprocal code-share arrangements between air carriers for the assessed state and US carriers when that state’s civil aviation authority has been rated category 2.
The recent downgrade also means that domestic airlines that fly to the US — Jet Airways and Air India — which have 28 flights to the country per week, will not be allowed to add new flights or enter into code-share agreements with US carriers.
Air India flies three daily flights to New York and Chicago, while Jet Airways operates a single flight to New York daily. Air India, which is looking to join Star Alliance this summer, could also lose out on code sharing opportunities with commercial US airlines. Moreover, the current fleet could also face additional checks at US airports.
Air India officials, when contacted, said they didn’t have any immediate plans to expand their American operations. Experts say the downgrade could also encourage other regulatory bodies like European Union (EASA), Singapore (CAAS), Japan (CAB) and UAE (GCAA) to follow suit.
The FAA downgrade, which puts India in the same category as Indonesia, Zimbabwe and Paraguay, comes after the FAA safety audit team, in a visit in September last year, raised 31 issues with DGCA’s oversight mechanism.
Of this, 24 issues had been addressed and seven were unresolved by the time a second FAA delegation paid a visit in December.
“We are hopeful that when we complete the training of the inspection officers by March, the FAA will review this. As soon as it is established that we have met all the requirements, India can regain its position,” India’s civil aviation minister, Ajit Singh, said on Friday.