US Restricts Flights From India: The U.S. government on Monday restricted charter flights from India, accusing the nation of “unfair and discriminatory practices” by violating a treaty governing aviation between the two countries.

The U.S Transportation Department on Monday accused the Indian government of engaging in “unfair and discriminatory practices” on charter air transportation services to and from India and issued an order requiring Indian air carriers to apply for authorization prior to conducting charter flights.

The order will allow U.S. officials “to scrutinize charter flights by Indian carriers on a case-by-case basis.” The department said it “seeks to restore a level playing field for U.S. airlines” under the U.S.-India Air Transport Agreement. The Indian government, citing the coronavirus, has banned all scheduled services and failed to approve U.S. carriers for charter operations, the department said.

Air India is advertising a schedule that is more than half of pre-virus operations, the department said. “The charters go beyond true repatriations, and it appears that Air India may be using repatriation charters as a way of circumventing” that nation’s flight restrictions, the U.S. agency said.

The order becomes effective in 30 days, the department said.

Indian airlines must apply to the DOT for authorization before conducting charter flights so that it can scrutinize them more closely, it said. The department will reconsider the restrictions once India lifts restrictions on U.S. carriers.

The action against India follows weeks of DOT restrictions against Chinese airlines after the U.S. agency accused that nation of unfairly banning American carriers in the wake of the virus. On June 15, the U.S. announced it would agree to allow four flights a week from China after it allowed the same number by U.S. carriers.

The Indian embassy in Washington did not immediately comment. The order is effective July 22. The department previously accused China of unfairly denying U.S. air carriers the ability to conduct flights and also demanded China seek preapproval for some charter flights.

The U.S. government said Air India has been operating what it calls “repatriation” charter flights between India and the United States in both directions since May 7. Air India is advertising flights “that would constitute a rate of 53% of the scheduled services it operated before the onset of the current public health emergency,” the department said.

“Considering this rate of flying, and that Air India is selling tickets on the market, the charters go beyond true repatriations, and it appears that Air India may be using repatriation charters as a way of circumventing the GoI-imposed prohibition of scheduled services.” The U.S. government first raised objections with the Indian government through engagement by the U.S. Embassy New Delhi on May 28.