Air bubbles only way forward for international travel during pandemic: Hardeep Puri
Civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Thursday underlined that bilateral air bubbles will be the way to resume international travel amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
“Till international civil aviation can reclaim its pre-Covid numbers, I think the 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 at a press conference.
Puri also said Air France will operate 28 flights between Delhi, Mumbai and Bangalore to Paris from July 18 till August 1 while United Air will operate 18 flights between Delhi, Mumbai to Newark till 31 July:
Scheduled international passenger flights have remained suspended in India since March 23 due to the pandemic.
Earlier this month, Airports Authority of India (AAI) chairman, Arvind Singh had said that India is in talks with the US and Canada and the countries in European and Gulf regions on establishing individual bilateral bubbles which will allow airlines of each country in the pact to operate international flights.
The pandemic has also continued to dog domestic flight operations.
“Domestic flights are operating at 33%.... We have to navigate a difficult terrain,” Puri said at Thursday’s presser.
The minister also lavished praise on Air India for carrying out a massive evacuation to bring back stranded Indians from several countries across the world amid the Covid-19 crisis.
“The Vande Bharat Mission is currently in the fourth phase. It involves 619 flights which will bring back more than two lakh Indians. We are evacuating about 20,000 people every day,” Puri said.
He said 687,467 people have been brought back so far out of which Air India carried 215,495.
Private carriers brought back 12,258 Indians while 135,000 used private charters to return home.
Puri said the Vande Bharat mission with an initial evacuation figure of 190,000 people but soon increased to a larger number after people from many parts of the world where Air India does operate also requested evacuation.
Air India’s chairman and managing director Rajiv Bansal said the airline operated 1,103 flights from 71 cities across 53 countries to evacuate Indians.
“Almost 50% of those returned are from West Asia and most of them belonged to Kerala,” he said