In a development that took India by surprise, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), the U.S. aviation regulatory body, announced on Friday that it had downgraded the country’s aviation safety ranking, bringing it below that of Pakistan and on a par with Ghana, Barbados and Bangladesh.
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh termed the step “very disappointing and surprising” as India had solved 29 of the 31 issues raised by the FAA during inspections last year.
With the downgrade, Indian flights would have to go through more engineering and other safety checks in the U.S. The FAA decision means that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) does not meet the safety standards set by the U.N. agency, International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
The news of the downgrade was conveyed to Director-General Prabhat Kumar. Air India and Jet Airways will now be barred from increasing the number of flights to the U.S. and will not be able to enter into any new code-sharing arrangement with any U.S. airline.
The move is, however, unlikely to have an impact on the 28 flights (21 of Air India and 7 of Jet Airways) a week already operating to the U.S. At present, Air India operates to Chicago and New York, while Jet Airways flies only to New York.
Officials in the Civil Aviation Ministry said the downgrade could have an impact on Air India’s move to join the Star Alliance.
Mr. Singh said India was now 95 per cent compliant with what the FAA had wanted the DGCA and the government to do in terms of taking corrective measures. “The remaining five per cent, that is recruitment and training of senior technical personnel in the DGCA, would be completed by March. The DGCA will remain in constant touch with the FAA, which will hopefully hold another review thereafter to revert India to Category I from the downgraded Category II.”