International flights to US to resume operations from today on interim basis under Bilateral Air Bubble mechanism

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri has said that Bilateral Air Bubbles will be the way to resume international travel amid the Covid-19 pandemic with certain conditions.

Briefing the media in New Delhi yesterday, Mr Puri said that the government’s negotiations with three countries are at an advanced stage for the purpose under the Bilateral Air Bubble mechanism. He said, in case of the United States, there is an agreement with United Airlines to operate 18 flights between India and US from today till 31st of July but this is an interim one. He informed that Air France will operate 28 flights from tomorrow till 1st of August between Delhi, Mumbai, Bengaluru and Paris. He said they have also received a request from Germany and an agreement with Lufthansa is almost done.

On the biggest evacuation exercise, Vande Bharat Mission, the Minister said, the fourth phase is going on. He said, under the first phase of the mission from 7th May to 13th May, 12 thousand 700 Indians stranded abroad due to COVID-19 pandemic were repatriated. He said, now double of this number of passengers are being brought back per day. He said, till 15th of this month over 6 lakh 87 thousand passengers have been brought under the mission.

Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Kharola said, taking the sheer number of passengers and the number of countries covered, Vande Bharat Mission is the biggest evacuation exercise by any civil airline in the world. He said this will pave the way for operation of Air Bubbles between different countries.

Air India Chairman and Managing Director Rajiv Bansal said that till 13th of this month as part of the Mission for Repatriation Flights for Stranded Indians, Air India group operated 1,103 flights and brought back over two lakh Indians and also helped repatriate over 85 thousand individuals.

On resumption of domestic flight operations, the Minister said, the operation began on 25th May and on the first day, 30 thousand passengers flew. He said, the number is increasing.

Besides, a presentation on Drone operations was also made during the briefing. The Civil Aviation Ministry official said that Drones will play a key role under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan and the government is working on the challenges.