Summer revelers between Mumbai and Shanghai are stuck as Air India which was the sole direct carrier between the two financial capitals has ceased flights. More than two years post Jet airways clipped its wings flying Mumbai-Shanghai and giving the Indian national carrier a serious run for its money, Air India recently cancelled flights too. No the reason behind the shut down is not the lack of business, but an agitation by pilots who weren’t getting paid enough.
Air India seems to be dying a slow death, having had to suspend over 71 pilots. The cancellation of 21 flights not only from Mumbai to Shanghai but also from Mumbai to Newark, London and Shanghai, and from Delhi to Tokyo, Frankfurt, Paris and Toronto is costing Air India an average of Rs. 15 crore a day. Besides paying full IATA rates to other airlines to ferry their stranded passengers, Air India said it’s also providing passengers with hotel accommodation.
The root cause behind the decay in the air route between the worlds fastest growing nations, is attributed to the lack of proper accounting of the airlines, government support, policies and infrastructure for Indian airlines. According to insiders, the entire industry is in a state of total collapse as corruption controls and bankruptcy balloons. China, in comparison recently announced that it would be building 70 new airports and expanding 100 by 2015, to add to its fleet of 160 existing airports. China Eastern Airlines flies from Beijing to New Delhi, but currently there are no flights connecting India’s financial hub to her largest trading port.
Considering that China is India’s largest trading partner, flights between the two commercial megapolis’s should be frequent, however political tensions have kept this far from happening. Shanghai Airlines and Air China were both expected to start flight between Mumbai and Beijing and Shanghai, however neither have succeeded. While the tensions constrains remain reciprocal – a Chinese airline is given permission to fly into India, only if an Indian airline is given permission has kept even Chinese airlines from gaining in this market. Since Indian airlines don’t have the funds to fly to China, Chinese airlines haven’t been able to procure permissions to fly to India. Commercial considerations apart, it is a chicken and egg story – if flights don’t operate between our two nations, it affects both the business and tourist industries, which leads to fewer people understanding each others cultures, languages and people’s, resulting in increased tensions, distrust and misunderstandings. In order to build bonhomie between our nations, we need to increase flights and encourage a healthy cross border exchange.