Faced with allegations levelled by the US that the Indian government has permitted Air India to fly commercial passengers on outbound legs of repatriation flights, while not permitting US airlines to operate flights to India, the Ministry of Civil Aviation said Tuesday it was in negotiations with various countries to establish “travel bubbles” or unrestricted corridors between countries, including the US. Accusing India of being “unfair” and engaging in “discriminatory practices”, the US Department of Transportation (DoT) has restricted repatriation flights being operated by Air India, saying that the national airline will need specific authorisation from the department to conduct such flights.
“… Effective 30 days from the service date of this Order, it shall not perform any Third- and/or Fourth-Freedom charter flights unless the Department has granted it specific authority in the form of a statement of authorisation to conduct such charters,” the US DOT said in an order dated June 22. The main contention of the US administration is that Air India is flying commercial passengers on flights to the US without the Indian government allowing US airlines to operate in a similar fashion.
The order also noted that on May 26, Delta Air Lines requested formal permission from the Indian authorities to perform repatriation charter services similar to those provided by Air India. To date, Delta has not received approval to perform the requested repatriation charters, the US DOT said. Further, the US gvernment registered its objections with the Indian government through engagement by the US Embassy in New Delhi on May 28. However, it said, the Indian government “has thus far failed to remedy the situation”.
Responding to the accusations, the Civil Aviation Ministry said in a statement: “We have received requests from concerned authorities in several countries including the US, France, Germany among others requesting that their air carriers be allowed to participate in the transportation of passengers along the line being conducted by Air India under Vande Bharat Mission. These requests are being examined”.
It added: “We have also had one round of negotiations with the US on June 15, with representatives of the US Department of Transportation and the US Embassy on this issue. They were invited to submit precise proposals in this respect. A communication has now been received on June 19, 2020 detailing these requests”.
The concept of travel bubbles was first proposed by countries like New Zealand that managed to contain the Covid-19 outbreak and wished to establish corridors between their home state and the country that has also been able to deal with the pandemic.
“As we move from controlled and managed aviation evacuation of our citizens in different parts of the world and foreign nationals from India, we are now looking at the possibility of establishing bilateral arrangements. These evacuation flights which were primarily meant for evacuation of our citizens from all over the world are now increasingly carrying Indians and citizens of other countries out bound to countries where they are normally resident,” the Indian civil aviation ministry noted.
While the US did not disclose any conversations with India regarding a travel corridor in its order, it pointed out that it has “determined that this situation calls for close scrutiny, on a case-by-case basis, of Air India passenger charter operations until this issue has been satisfactorily resolved”. It has ordered that a prior-approval be sought for all Air India repatriation flights, which will enable the US government to exercise that close scrutiny.
AI Express seeks nod to fly passengers to Dubai on Vande Bharat flights
New Delhi: Following a statement by the Dubai government allowing foreign nationals holding residency visas issued in Dubai to return to the emirate starting June 22 and tourists from overseas beginning July 7, Indian low-cost airline Air India Express has approached the authorities there seeking permission to fly passengers from
India to Dubai on the outbound legs of Vande Bharat flights there. —ENS
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