Over three months after international flight operations came to a halt in India, the Centre has inked individual bilateral agreements with the US and France to resume flight services between India and the two countries from Friday (July 17), Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri has announced.
During a press conference on Thursday (July 16), Puri added that similar arrangement with Germany and the UK would soon be permitted. While American carrier United Airlines will be flying 18 flights between India and the US from July 17 to July 31, Air France will be operating 28 flights between Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Paris from July 18 to August 1.
“They (United) are flying a daily flight between Delhi and Newark and a thrice-a-week flight between Delhi and San Francisco,” Puri said. “We have got a request from Germans also. I think the arrangement with Lufthansa is almost done…We are processing that request,” the minister said.
“Now we have many demands for air bubbles, but we need to be careful. We should permit that many only that we can handle,” he said, adding that Air India would be operating flights to France and the US under these bubbles. An air bubble is a bilateral arrangement with a set of regulations and restrictions in which the carriers of the two countries can operate international flights.
Since March 23, scheduled international passenger flights have been suspended in India due to the COVID-19 pandemic. After nearly two months of suspension to combat the coronavirus outbreak, the government resumed scheduled domestic passenger flights on May 25.
However, it had then allowed the airlines to operate a maximum 33 per cent of their pre-COVID domestic flights. The MOCA increased the limits on June 26 from 33 per cent to 45 per cent. “We are assuming that by the time Diwali comes this year, we would have 55-60 per cent of pre-COVID domestic flights operating in India,” Puri said.
(With inputs from agencies)