Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that international flights may resume under established bilateral air bubbles with other countries in a defined manner from tomorrow.
Puri said that air bridges or air bubbles would be the only 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 including India.”~Hardeep Singh Puri, Civil Aviation Minister
The aviation minister also implied at resumption of international flights with at least three more countries amid this bilateral situation from tomorrow.
“We are at a very advanced stage between with three countries and it is a work-in-progress. For example, Air France will be operating 28 flights between Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Paris from 18 July to 1 August while US will be flying 18 flights between July 17-31, but this is an interim one. We have request from German carriers to permit flights to India and we are processing it,” Puri said.
A travel bubble or a bilateral air bubble is a travel corridor based on reciprocity between two countries that want to reopen their borders and re-establish connections with each other.
Earlier, the Ministry of Home Affairs stated that the international passenger flight services in the country will resume in a phased manner during ‘Unlock 2.0’.
Earlier this month,the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) rolled out a circular stating that the International commercial air passenger services will remain suspended till 31st July.
On the other hand, India’s Vande Bharat Mission has evacuated more than 6,80,000 Indians stranded abroad due to coronavirus pandemic till Wednesday, Puri said today. “A total of 6,87,467 passengers have been evacuated under the mission till 15 July, 23:59 hours,” he said.
As of 13 July, Air India and Air India Express operated 1,103 flights, bringing back 2,08,000 Indians under the mission.
The aviation minister added that 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 a request from German carriers to permit flights to India and we are processing it,” he said.
He informed that over 80,000 people have also flown out of the country since the outbreak of the pandemic. This is the fourth phase of the mission. The first phase of the mission commenced on 7 May.
Moreover, on Tuesday, a total of 68,804 passengers travelled in domestic flights till 23:59 hours. There were a total of 1,633 flight movements in the country. Footfalls at airports was 1,36,099 and total number of flyers were 68,804. There have been 816 departures and 817 arrivals.
Puri also hinted at a short extension on the airfare cap on domestic flights beyond 24 August due to dip in demand.
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.
All commercial passenger flights were suspended in India on March 25 after the Centre imposed a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19.
May 25 onwards,domestic flights in the country resumed operations.