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Campaigners Want to Change India’s International Airline ‘Designator’ Code Over Colonial Roots

Campaigners Want to Change India’s International Airline ‘Designator’ Code Over Colonial Roots

Campaigners in India are yet again trying to change the country’s two-letter airline designation code that signifies that an aircraft is registered in India. The campaigners believe the code assigned to India is linked to British colonial roots and want it changed to mark the fact that India is a sovereign nation.

India has used the ‘VT’ designation for aircraft registered in the country since 1927 when countries agreed on the two-letter system at the International Radiotelegraph Convention in Washington.

Indias’s designation was overseen by the British who were the colonial rulers of India at the time. Campaigners, therefore, believe the designation standards for ‘Viceroy Territory’ or ‘Victorian Territory’.

The former refers to the term used for an official that acts as the representative of the monarch in a colonial territory.

Interestingly, India’s Minister of State for Civil Aviation Vijay Kumar Singh declared last December that VT did not stand for Viceroy Territory and the Indian government is strongly opposed to changing the designation.

One of the main reasons for resisting calls by campaigners to bin the colonial aircraft designation is down to the massive bureaucratic and financial costs that would be involved in changing to a new code.

Campaigners ideally want to change the code to something that is closely related to India – for example, British aircraft start with the letter G which could be inferred to represent Great Britain, France has the letter F and Ireland is designated EI as in Eire.

But the vast majority of country designation codes have seemingly no link with the country that they represent. For example, Armenia has the code EK, Jamaica is 6Y and Thailand is HS.

In a so-called public interest litigation in Delhi’s High Court, campaigner Ashwini Kumar Upadhyay is yet again trying to get India’s designation code changed, claiming the VT code is a symbol of slavery.

Even if he wins the case, the change would still need to be approved and adopted by the International Civil Aviation Organization which now manages the list of designation codes.

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