Sources told The Bhutanese that the state-owned Air India is planning to operate in the country and dialogue is on between the Royal Government and the Government of India (GoI).
The time for this move has not yet been decided but according to Air India’s representatives, it is certain that India will introduce air services in Bhutan.
However, the general manager of Druk Air, Tshering Penjor said that even if Air India does not agree to operate, any other airline can be designated by the Indian government.
“Air India is a national airliner so it’s playing the lead role but there are others like Jet Airways and Indigo,” he said.
Meanwhile, Druk Air and Air India have entered into a code-sharing agreement whereby passengers can buy tickets from Paro to travel overseas.
On this the Joint Secretary for the Ministry of Civil Aviation of India , Prashant Narian Sukul said, “Once the Druk Air code sharing is allowed in India then the Druk Air flight number is as good as the flight number of Air India and vice-versa.”
Apparently, Druk Air will be the marketing carrier and Air India, an operating carrier.
“We haven’t decided on when to propose but we are expecting some 787 planes to come then we will reassess our schedule,” said Prashant Narian Sukul.
But the delivery of these 787 dream liners has been delayed for almost three and a half years, he said. He added that the framework is already ready and now the two airlines have to follow it up.
“I am sure the Bhutanese government would gladly welcome Air India’s services since it could boost tourist traffic.”
The Joint Secretary also said that if any designated flight is to be flown into Bhutan then the pilots may need special training as the country’s tough terrain is considered one of the most treacherous flight paths in the region.
During the recent dialogue between the government and GoI, the main focus was on the main terms allowing unlimited air connectivity.
If the discussions between Druk Air and Air India are successful, Bhutan could become an international destination for transit air services. Bhutan for the past few decades has been working its way out of its reputation of being an inaccessible destination for large aircrafts such as the A380 and others.