International flights: Travel bubbles likely to continue till March-April, says Hardeep Singh Puri
Union civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Thursday said the future of international flights is now depending on the availability of a vaccine. Answering a question on whether travel bubble arrangements will continue till March-April, the minister said, “It is difficult to say as there is no country which has completely opened its borders for all. It depends on the availability of a vaccine as countries will feel more confident once a vaccine is there.”
Air bubbles are specific arrangements between countries to allow airlines of both the countries to carry passengers. Regular international passenger flight services have been suspended till October 31. The minister hinted that this suspension is likely to be in place till March-April. “There are basically three issues to consider before resuming regular international flights. One, resuming domestic connectivity connecting bigger cities to smaller town, which we have already done. Second, the nature of the virus on which I can’t comment and the third is international restrictions. Every country wants their people to return, but for others there are plenty of restrictions,” Puri said.
Domestic airlines will soon be allowed to increase their capacity to 75 per cent. At present, they are operating at 65 per cent capacity, after domestic flights resumed operations on May 25 — following a gap of two months of lockdown. “There is no deadline. But this can happen soon as the domestic numbers are going up. Before this I said that the pre-covid domestic number will be achieved between Diwali and New Year. Now I am confident that by the first quarter next year, we will be able to surpass the pre-covid number,” the civil aviation minister said.
“This marks the beginning of the second phase of domestic travel as we are now gearing up to face the challenge of welcoming more people in the airports as the festive season is almost upon us. We had a meeting with the airlines recently in this regard,” Pradeep Singh Kharola, civil aviation secretary said.