Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had on June 20 said the government will start thinking on the resumption of scheduled international passenger flights in mid-July when it expects the domestic air traffic to reach 50-55 per cent of the levels before the coronavirus.
The government recently permitted airlines in India to increase their number of domestic passenger flights to 45 per cent of their pre-COVID capacity, according to an official order. The airlines were earlier operating at 1/3rd the capacity after resumption of scheduled domestic flight services in India.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation had restarted domestic passenger services from May 25, after a gap of two months due to the coronavirus-triggered lockdown. Modifying its previous order of May 21 where it had put the limit on the number of domestic flights, the ministry issued an order on Friday stating that, "One Third (1/3) capacity may be read as 45 per cent capacity."
International flights were banned from operating in India as government announced lockdown starting March 23, 2020. However, non-scheduled international flights were operated under Mission Vande Bharat to repatriate Indians stuck abroad.
As the Mission Vande Bharat reaches phase 4 of operation that is scheduled from July 3 to July 31, speculations are that government, instead of entering 5th phase of VBM, will restart international flights with capped capacity and under bilateral agreement with various countries.
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, said Arvind Singh, Chairman, Airports Authority of India (AAI).
The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MOCA) had on June 23 said India is considering establishing "individual bilateral bubbles" with the US, the UK, Germany and France. Singh said, "This morning, I took a brief from the key point person (from the MOCA) 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 the US, India and Canada, India and Europe and India and the Gulf countries to start flights in these bubbles," he said at a webinar called "Reposing the faith in flying" organised by the GMR group.
With Inputs fro PTI