Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri in a press briefing today said international flights may resume under bilateral air bubbles with other countries with certain conditions as many are imposing entry restrictions even now, including India in the wake of novel coronavirus 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," Puri said.
The aviation minister also hinted at resumption of international flights with at least three more countries amid this bilateral situation. The flights may resume 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 between two countries that wish to reopen their borders and re-establish connections with each other. This is an exclusive partnership considered between countries that have either largely eliminated the virus, or trust the testing numbers.
Earlier, the Ministry of Home Affairs said the international passenger flight services in the country will resume in a phased manner during 'Unlock 2.0'.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) earlier mentioned "international scheduled flights may be allowed on selected routes on a case-to-case basis."
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 on 13 July, Air India and Air India Express operated 1,103 flights, bringing back 2,08,000 Indians under the mission. "On many of these flights, we ferried back 85,289 passengers to various countries across the world," said Air India CMD Rajiv Bansal.
He said 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 said, there might be a short extension on the airfare cap on domestic flights beyond 24 August due to muted demand.
All scheduled commercial passenger flights were suspended in India on March 25 after the Central government imposed a nationwide lockdown to contain the spread of Covid-19. Domestic flights in the country resumed operations from May 25.