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International flights to resume as India establishes ‘air bubbles’ with US, France: Hardeep Puri

International flights Resume date in India: According to Puri, Air France will operate 28 flights between Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore to Paris from July 18 till August 1 while United Air will operate 18 flights between Delhi, Mumbai to Newark till 31 July.

By: Express Web Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: July 16, 2020 10:16:03 pm
International flights resume Hardeep Singh Puri. (File)

Announcing the resumption of international commercial flights, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Thursday said India had established individual bilateral bubbles with France and the US that would allow airlines of these countries to operate flights. Puri said air bridges or air bubbles would be the way to resume international air travel amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“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,” he said.

The concept of air bridges is based on reciprocity with the said countries allowing Indian citizens to fly into their borders and India allowing their citizens to fly into its borders.

Addressing a press conference, Puri said Air France would be operating 28 flights between Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Paris from July 18 to August 1 while American carrier United Airlines would be flying 18 flights between India and the US from July 17 to July 31.

“They (United) are flying a daily flight between Delhi and Newark and a thrice-a-week flight between Delhi and San Francisco,” Puri said.

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The minister further said India was planning to establish a bubble with the UK soon, under which there would be two flights per day between Delhi and London. “We have  request from German carriers to permit flights to India and we are processing it,” he said.

From India, Air India will be operating flights to France and US under these bubbles. Scheduled international passenger flights have been suspended in India since March 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had on July 3 extended the ban on international flights until July 31 after it was suspended till July 15.  According to senior government officials, the ban was extended because it was felt that it would take some more time for India to prepare before it can resume scheduled international operations.

As on July 13, Air India and Air India Express operated 1103 flights bringing back 2,08,000 Indians under Vande Bharat Mission. “On many of these flights, we ferried back 85289 passengers to various countries across the world,” said Air India CMD Rajiv Bansal.

Read | These are the airlines that have started operations after Covid-19 lockdown

Puri also said that by Diwali this year, at least 55-60 per cent of pre-Covid domestic flights will be operating in India.

Domestic passenger flight services resumed in the country from May 25, two months after the announcement of the lockdown and suspension of all scheduled commercial passenger flights in India.

Several countries that have already put in place these air bridges or travel bubbles have done so on the basis of their perception of the ability of the destination country to handle the Covid19 pandemic.

For example, New Zealand, which was completely able to contain the disease was establishing a trans-Tasmanian air bubble with other countries that had managed the virus spread. The three Baltic nations of Estonia, Lithuania and Latvia had also established an air bubble among themselves

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