American airline Delta will be back in Indian skies in 2019.
Three years after fully exiting the country, the carrier is resuming nonstop flights between the US and Mumbai, the company said in a May 24 statement. This is subject to government approval, and the full schedule details are expected to be announced later this year.
Delta exited India in 2014 after it was pummelled by competition from Gulf airlines, including the flag carriers of Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, which received government subsidies for their operations.
Now, the Donald Trump administration has struck agreements with the UAE and Qatar to address the issue of government subsidies. “The framework created by the agreement allows Delta to move forward with service to India, a market long impacted by government-subsidised Middle Eastern airlines,” Delta said in the statement.
The Open Skies policy, rolled out by the US in 1992, involves bilateral agreements that the country negotiates with others to eliminate state involvement in airlines’ decision-making on routes, capacity, and global pricing. However, American airlines have alleged that carriers operated by countries in the Middle East receive subsidies.
Now, after years of discussions, the US has struck a deal where the Middle Eastern airlines have agreed to open up access to their accounting books by publishing annual financial statements. The deal prevents the Gulf airlines from adding additional direct flights from the US to Europe and Asia. Former US president Barack Obama had reportedly held informal discussions with the gulf nations, but the talks didn’t result in concrete action.
“We are thankful to the president (Trump) for taking real action to enforce our Open Skies trade deals, which made this new service possible. We are looking forward to providing customers in the US and India with Delta’s famously reliable, customer-focused service operated by the best employees in the industry,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said.
With this, Delta will be the second American airline to offer non-stop services between India and the US after Chicago-based United Airlines which currently operates direct flights from Mumbai and Delhi to New York.