U.S. FAA downgrades India aviation rating; Air India, Jet hit

Fri Jan 31, 2014 10:45pm EST
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By Devidutta Tripathy

NEW DELHI (Reuters) - U.S. authorities have downgraded India's aviation safety rating, citing a lack of safety oversight, meaning the country's carriers cannot increase flights to the world's biggest aviation market and face extra checks for existing ones.

India said it expected to resolve by March all concerns raised by the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration, including appointing an adequate number of flight operation inspectors, and would ask the U.S. regulator to review its decision.

"The FAA has determined that India at this time is not in compliance with the international standards for aviation safety oversight," the U.S. regulator said in extracts from a communication released by the Indian government on Friday.

Jet Airways (JET.NS: Quote) and state-run Air India AIN.UL, the only two carriers that fly from India to the United States, will be hit by the downgrade. Air India has 21 weekly flights between India and the United States, while Jet has seven.

Hours after the FAA downgrade, United Airlines said it would suspend a marketing pact with Jet, with effect from Saturday. FAA rules bar US carriers from code-sharing arrangements with airlines from countries that have been downgraded.

Shares of Jet Airways shares closed Friday down 3.7 percent in Mumbai, the Indian financial capital.

"It's very disappointing and also surprising," Indian Aviation Minister Ajit Singh told a news briefing on Friday after the FAA said it was downgrading the country to Category 2 from Category 1.

"In our view, 95 percent of all the issues raised have been solved," Singh said, adding Indian would address all of the FAA's concerns by March.   Continued...

An Air India Airlines Boeing 787 dreamliner takes part in a flying display during the 50th Paris Air Show at the Le Bourget airport near Paris, June 14, 2013. REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol