NEW DELHI: India’s international air connectivity is set to improve, with the government getting into agreements to resume scheduled passenger flight operations with the US, UK, France, Germany and the UAE.The operations will still be limited to certain cities and will be operated by a few airlines, as the country cautiously reopens air traffic that it suspended in late March amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
Since then, India has allowed only evacuation flights.“It is likely to be difficult to resume international flights with the current restrictions in place, due to the virus. Air bubbles between countries is going to be the arrangement as far as international connectivity is concerned till the time the virus situation is under control and countries open up,” aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri told ET.
The government has ensured that Indian carriers get equal share of flights under the pacts, he said. “We have agreed (to this arrangement) on the basis that airlines from our country are not disadvantaged.”These flights would provide connectivity to people who would want to travel urgently, but may not mean tourists travelling as that would depend on the guidelines of the respective countries and the home ministry guidelines for passengers travelling to India. India has not yet opened itself for foreign tourists.
As part of the agreements, United Airlines will operate from the US, Air France from France and various airlines from the UAE. No UK-based airline will operate to India and Air India will, for now, be the only carrier operating to London from India. Germany has yet to submit a schedule of flights for approval. Foreign airlines will not be allowed to carry the so-called sixth freedom traffic — passengers flying to a foreign country via another country (such as flying from India to London via Dubai).From the Indian side, this arrangement may see two private airlines entering the long-haul business by operating flights to some of these destinations.
Air India is likely to announce more flights on Wednesday to these destinations, which will also be the Phase 4 of the Vande Bharat Mission.Puri said the flights would ensure connectivity between the countries and that the pacts would be reviewed and changed depending on demand. “There are requests for flights under similar arrangement from several other countries too and the government will take them up. There will be a regular review based on operation of these flights,” he added.
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