Hardeep Singh Puri
Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri in a press briefing today said international flights may resume under bilateral air bubbles with other countries 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.
“We are at a very advanced stage between most of the countries and it is a work-in-progress. For example, Air France will be operating 28 flights between Delhi-Mumbai-Bangauluru and Paris from 18 July to 1 August,” he 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.”
Moreover, on 4 July, Puri said that over 75,000 passengers travelled in domestic flights, a milestone reached for the first time since the flights resumed amid novel coronavirus pandemic on 25 May.
He said that domestic operations began with about 30,000 flyers on May 25.
“Domestic operations began with about 30K flyers on 25th May. Yesterday we crossed the 75,000 mark which indicates a slow and steady rise in the number of domestic flyers. On 4th July till 23:59 hrs – total movements 1,560, footfalls at airports 1,53,547, and total number of flyers 76,104,” Puri tweeted.
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.
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.