“(Thursday) morning I took a brief from the key point person in the aviation ministry who is negotiating with the countries, and he said that we are in constant touch. We are working on a consensus to restart the international flights. This is going to be through air bubbles. Talks are mainly going on between India and US; India and Canada; India and Europe and India and the Gulf countries to start flights in these bubbles,” Singh said at a webinar called “reposing the faith in flying” organised by the Delhi Airport on Thursday.
India had suspended schedule international flights on March 22 to prevent the spread of corona. Since then people are flying in and out of the country on special charters and repatriation flights being operated by both India and foreign airlines. Domestic flights had resumed on May 25 and international flights for now are suspended till 11.59 pm of July 15.
The aviation ministry’s discussion with countries for bilateral bubbles is at a “very advanced” level and the effort is to restart international flights at the earliest. “I am sure there would be a positive outcome of the talks with US, Canada and with the Gulf countries and the negotiations are going on,” Singh said.
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Air India has been operating repatriation flights under Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) since May 6 mainly to fly home Indians stranded abroad. Countries like the US, Canada, UK, Singapore and France (till recently) were allowing certain categories of visa holders to fly in on these VBM flights. But since last month, some like the US, Germany and France have been demanding that their airlines also be allowed to operate repatriation flights like AI’s VBM to India.
The US department of transportation (DoT) on June 22 said India “has impaired operating rights of US carriers and engaged in discriminatory and restrictive practices with respect to US carriers’ services to and from India.”
The DoT order had added that US carrier Delta had on May 26, 2020, requested permission from Indian aviation ministry “to perform repatriation charter services similar to those provided by Air India. To date, Delta has not received approval to perform the requested repatriation charters.”
Unless this issue is resolved, Air India will have to seek prior approval for operating flights to and from the US from July 22 . From late June, France has now stopped allowing people to fly back to Paris on AI’s VBM flights.