Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Thursday, 16 July, said India is in advance stages of negotiations with three countries – France, US & Germany – to establish ‘air bubble’ arrangements for allowing flight services under pre-conditions.
'Air Bubble' travel arrangements are established between two countries under a certain set of safety and passenger travelling conditions, such as high demand, legal entry and exit norms and airlines' willingness to operate on these sectors.
Puri said that India has allowed Air France to operate 28 flights to Delhi, Bengaluru and Mumbai from 18 July to 1 August, while US-based United Airlines has been allowed to operate 18 flights between 17-31 July.
Negotiations are on with Germany regarding operations of Lufthansa flights to India, he added.
Puri also said, “Till international civil aviation can reclaim its pre-COVID numbers, I think answer will lie through bilateral air bubbles which will carry a possible number of people but under defined conditions as countries are still imposing entry restrictions incl India.”
At present, the civil aviation authorities of India and the UAE have agreed to allow operations of special repatriation flights between the two countries during 12-26 July.
As per the arrangement, chartered flights operated by UAE carriers to fly out Indians from the UAE will be allowed to carry ICA (Federal Authority for Identity and Citizenship) approved UAE residents to their native country on their return leg.
Further, Indian carriers operating repatriation flights to bring back Indians from the UAE will be allowed to carry the ICA-approved UAE residents on their onward journey from India to the Gulf country.
Currently, the suspension of scheduled commercial international flight operations to and from India has been extended till 31 July.
In repatriation operations, under the Vande Bharat Mission, Puri said that till 15 July, 6,87,467 passengers have been brought back to India.
On domestic operations, the minister said that passenger traffic is still under 33 percent capacity, which comes to 1,00,000 passengers per day.
However, he exuded optimism that this number might rise to 55-60 percent by November.
(The story has been edited for clarity.)