Stand by for more flights between Australia and India, following a bold new bilateral air services deal granting Indian airlines unlimited access to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide airports.

In return, Australian airlines gain unlimited access to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Chennai and Bangalore airports.

The new arrangements scrap the previous limits on the Australia-India route, which imposed a cap of 6500 seats each way per week.

In a joint statement, Australia’s Tourism Minister Steve Ciobo and Transport Minister Michael McCormack said the new arrangements provided “a foundation for airlines to increase direct flights between Australia and India, in line with the growing scale and profile of the Indian market over the long term”.

The ministers said the liberalised air services arrangements were an important step for the Australia-India bilateral relationship, providing Australian businesses the opportunity to access a rapidly growing market.

“As an island nation Australia relies on international aviation to facilitate tourism, trade and maintain people-to-people links necessary for business growth.

“The Turnbull Coalition Government has agreed to significantly open aviation arrangements with the world’s fastest growing major economy.

“India is currently our seventh most valuable international tourism market with 302,200 visitors contributing AUD 1.43 billion to the Australian economy in 2017. This valuable market continues to grow and it is estimated that by 2026-27 Australia will welcome more than 640,000 Indians to our shores. This new aviation agreement ensures we have capacity to facilitate this outstanding growth.

City Palace in India’s Udaipur, with visitor from Australia in foreground

“Two-way trade between Australia and India already sits at AUD 27.4 billion worth of goods and services, making India our fifth largest trading partner. The opportunity for increased freight and cargo enables our exporters to continue to grow this important market.”

Indian visitors recorded the largest growth in trip spend for the year ended December 2017, up 16% to reach AUD 1.4 billion.

In latest figures from the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS), when trend estimates for short-term visitor arrivals for April 2017 and April 2018 were compared, the highest percentage increase was recorded for India (20.3%) – a long way ahead of second-placegetter Hong Kong (7.2%) and China (5.9%).

Written by Peter Needham