Govt ‘has nothing to do with sale of Jet slots’

jet-etihad-dealNEW DELHI: Under flak from several MPs over the Jet-Etihad deal, government has said it had “no role to play” in the sale of Jet’s slots at London Heathrow airport to the Abu Dhabi-based airline.

Terming the charges of irregularities in sale of three slots by Jet to Etihad leveled by the MPs as “absolutely baseless and false”, Civil Aviation Ministry came out with a detailed note on the matter, saying “Government or any other Civil Aviation Institution in India has no role to play”.

“This is purely a function of Airport Coordination Limited of Heathrow Airport and the concerned airlines,” it said.
It also maintained that Air India, which had four slots at Heathrow, was currently using only three and the remaining one was leased to Delta Airlines of the US.

A slot, or landing and departure time, are permissions to use a runway or airport infrastructure which is given by the airport to the airlines as per procedure.

Politicians, including Nishikant Dubey of BJP, Dinesh Trivedi (Trinamool Congress) and Subramanian Swamy (Janata Party) had claimed that the Heathrow slots were owned by the government and not Jet Airways. Jet had sold them to Etihad without official permission or reimbursement to the government, they had alleged.

Countering the charges, the Ministry said that trading of slots at Heathrow or any airport and allotment of global traffic rights to Indian carriers were two different things.

While the rights to fly on international routes under Bilateral Air Service Agreement are given by the government, the availability of slots at foreign airports like Heathrow “are two different matters,” it said.

It quoted data received from Heathrow airport authorities to say that slot trading in the last 12 years, had risen from 42 slots in 2000 to 526 in 2012. Apart from Air India and Jet, many airlines like SWISS, British Airways, Virgin, Qantas, Delta, Continental and Air France have traded or transferred slots for the last 15 years.

Two years after a slot is allotted to an airline by the airport, the airline gets ‘grandfather rights’ on it. The airline then is entitled to trade the slot to another airline by way of sale, lease, sale-and-leaseback or ‘baby sitting’.

Baby sitting is the practice of leasing slots on a short or medium term basis by one airline to a non-competing airline. Sometimes an alliance partner may ‘baby sit’ a slot to keep out newcomers. -PTI

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