Despite the relaxations being given by the Ministry of Civil Aviation to foreign airlines of France and the US to fly passengers of Indian and non-Indian nationalities on both legs of their India flights, restrictions put in place by the foreign jurisdictions, as well as India’s Ministry of Home Affairs, mean that the situation does not change for most travelers unless these norms are eased up.
Thursday, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said India was in advanced stages of negotiations for setting up of air travel bubbles with various countries and has already allowed American carrier United and French airline Air France to operate flights till the end of this month under an arrangement.
While United has been allowed to operate 18 flights from Delhi and Mumbai to Newark between July 17 and 31, Air France will operate flights from Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru to Paris between July 18 and August 1.
A senior government official said these airlines have been permitted to fly passengers both ways but alluded to the fact that restrictions imposed by India’s home ministry and the foreign countries could mean only those who clear these checks will be able to travel out or in.
To begin with, as per the new norms, foreign carriers will be able to fly in Indian citizens and holders of Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cards meeting certain stipulations as notified by the home ministry.
Further, India has suspended all visas, barring certain categories. Even for Indian citizens and eligible OCI cardholders to fly to India on carriers like Air France and United, they will strictly have to adhere to the standard operating procedures and quarantine norms issued by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
By the very definition, air bubbles or travel corridors are systems established between two countries that perceive each other to be safe and allow carriers of both the countries to fly passengers either way without any restrictions.
Additionally, even though the government has allowed carriers such as Air France and United to fly Indian citizens out of the country, it is unclear whether the receiving countries allow entry of Indian citizens.
For example, the European Council has adopted a recommendation on gradual lifting of temporary restrictions of non-essential travel into the European Union. This recommendation included 15 countries from where travel was allowed July 1 onward. The list was reviewed and revised on July 16 to 13 countries.
However, India did not feature in either of the lists.
Furthermore, the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office has notified a list of 66 jurisdictions, including 14 from Asia-Pacific region, which are exempted from its advice against ‘all but essential’ international travel. India does not feature in this list, too.
“Things have opened up compared with before but someone can travel only if they do not face any visa restrictions, etc. Every nation has a different policy, which is not under our purview. These airlines can carry transit passengers, and we are enabling and facilitating it,” the government official said.
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