India has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Republic of Korea (RoK) after negotiations in New Delhi , to enhance bilateral air service cooperation between the two countries. The major issues that were formalized are as follows :
- a) Capacity Entitlement: The capacity entitlement for both the countries have been increased from existing 6 services per week to 19 services per week.
- b) Points of Call: -Two additional points of call viz. Chennai and Bengaluru have been granted for Republic of Korea carriers.
- c) Additional Beyond Points: -Apart from Tokyo and Los Angeles, two additional beyond points of call viz. Seattle and Vancouver, have been granted for Indian carriers. This means that the Indian carriers can mount air services to these destinations via Korea so that the operations could become more economical.
- d) Intermediate Point: -Ho-Chi-Minh city is now available as an intermediate point to the carriers of both countries in addition to Bangkok, Macau or Hong Kong. This gives an opportunity to the Indian carriers to provide additional options to the people travelling to Vietnam.
- e) Domestic code share points: – To increase seamless connectivity for the benefit of passengers, both sides agreed to allow domestic code-share to any four points in their respective countries
One major success of the bilateral negotiations with Korea is the retention of fifth freedom on intermediate points at 100%, which had been a bone of contention in the previous talks. For fifth freedom for beyond points India succeeded in keeping the ratio at more than 50% (10 out of 19 frequencies) which was earlier only 50% of traffic rights.
The signing of the MoU comes against the backdrop of two rounds of inconclusive talks on 21st December, 2012 in New Delhi and on 20/21 October 2014 in Seoul, as the two sides could not come to an agreement on various issues including number of frequencies to be increased and the quantum of fifth freedom rights on intermediate points. Therefore, there was a stalemate on enhancement of air connectivity between India and Korea despite the growth in economic and trade relations and tourism between the two countries. Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi paid a state visit to the Republic of Korea (ROK) on the invitation of Park Geun-hye, President of the Republic of Korea on May 18-19, 2015. The two leaders welcomed and encouraged the ongoing efforts, including through an aviation cooperation conference, by their respective civil aviation authorities to amend the bilateral Air Services Agreement with a view to enhancing flight connectivity and covering more cities.
With the signing of the above MoU, the air connectivity between the two countries will be enhanced further and this is expected to boost economic and people-to-people cooperation.