Bilateral agreements have been signed by India with the US and France so that each country will begin international flights from Friday. Hardeep Singh Puri, the Civil Aviation Minister said that similar arrangements are being worked out with the UK and Germany.
The minister, at a news conference, said that until the international civil aviation can claim its pre-COVID numbers, bilateral air bubbles are the key. These will carry only a possible number of passengers, under defined conditions because restrictions are being imposed in countries, like India.
18 flights will be flown between India and the US from July 17 to July 31 by the American carrier United Airlines. 28 flights between Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru, and Paris will be run by Air France from July 18 to August 1.
Mr. Puri said that United Airlines is flying a daily flight between Newark and Delhi. There is a thrice-a-week flight between San Francisco and Delhi.
The Minister also said that talks are underway with the UK to establish similar agreements. Under this agreement, there will be two flights running per day between Delhi and London.
Mr. Puri also said that they have received a request from Germans also. The arrangement with Lufthansa is nearly complete, they are processing that request.
The minister said that now, the demands for air bubbles are rising but we must be careful. Permission to only those should be given which can be handled by us.
Under these bubbles, Air India will be operating these flights to France and the US from India.
This announcement has come weeks after the US had threatened to act against India. The US accused India of running exclusive paid flights under its “Vande Bharat Mission”. These flights were used by India to bring back the Indians from other countries. The US said that India had resorted to discriminatory and unfair practices.
Since March 23, the scheduled international passenger flights have been suspended in India because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The government resumed scheduled domestic passenger flights on May 25. This was after about two months of suspension to combat the outbreak of coronavirus.
But the airlines were only allowed to operate at a maximum of 33% of their pre-COVID domestic flights. The limits were increased by the Civil Aviation Ministry in June from 33 to 45%.
Mr. Puri said that by the time of Diwali this year, 55-60% of pre-COVID domestic flights will be operating in the country.