Scheduled international flights into the country are being allowed by India for the first time since the outbreak of thee novel coronvirus pandemic in March.
The establishment of “air bubbles” between India and the United States, France and Germany was confirmed by India’s Minister of Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri on Thursday.
“Until international civil aviation can reclaim its pre-Covid situation in terms of numbers, the answer lies through these bilateral air bubbles, which will carry as many people as possible but under defined conditions,” said Puri.
“Because many countries are still imposing entry restrictions, as are we, it’s not that anyone can travel from anywhere to anywhere. You need permission.”
India had suspended all international passenger flights into and from the country since March 23 because of the pandemic except for repatriation flights. According to the latest data from the Ministry of Civil Aviation, almost 690,000 Indian nationals have been flown home on these flights as of July 15.
An agreement with France has already been reached be the ministry, Puri told media. Between July 18 and August 1, 28 flights on the Delhi-Mumbai-Bangalore sector to Paris will be flown by Air France.
For the rest of the month, daily flights between India and France will also be operated by Air India, the minister indicated. But these are open to changes, he added.
Between July 17th and 31st, United Airlines will operate 18 flights between India and the USm, the ministry said. These will include daily flights between Delhi and Newark and thrice-weekly services between Delhi and San Francisco.
It is also expected that 18 flights from Friday will also be operated by Delta till the end of the month between the US and India even though this has not yet been officially confirmed.
“All these tickets are being sold on a one-way basis,” he said. “So, it is not normal commercial operations.”
The ministry has also almost completed talks with Germany’s Lufthansa with the two parties only needing to work out agreements for flights to and from Germany.
Currently, there is a huge demand for bilateral air bubbles, Puri acknowledged, adding however that caution needed to be exercised for such agreements.
“We should do only as much as what our capacity is,” he said. “Our health infrastructure, for instance, the number of quarantine facilities — all states have a mandatory one-week quarantine. So, we must have facilities for that.”
While the rule for self and mandatory quarantine for passengers coming from foreign countries will differ according to states, the Federal government said that a mandatory quarantine of a minimum seven days upon returning to the country will have to be followed.
(Adapted from CNN.com)