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Wednesday, 24 June, 2020, 11 : 30 AM [IST]

India examines requests from US, UK, France & Germany for flights

The Union Aviation Ministry stated Tuesday that the government is considering establishment of “individual bilateral bubbles” with the US, the UK, Germany and France for allowing airlines of the respective countries in the agreement to operate international passenger flights.

The Ministry’s statement came on the heels of the US Department of Transportation’s announcement Monday that it has barred Air India from operating chartered flights between India and the United States from July 22 without its prior approval, in what seems to be a retaliatory measure against Indian government’s decision of not allowing American carriers to operate between the two countries.

Creating a travel bubble involves reconnecting countries or states that have shown a good level of success in containing the novel coronavirus pandemic domestically. Such a bubble would allow the members of the group to rekindle trade ties with each other, and kickstart sectors such as travel and tourism.

The Aviation Ministry was quoted as saying by news agency PTI, “As we contemplate further opening up in response to demands, we are looking at the prospect of establishing individual bilateral bubbles, India-US, India-France, India-Germany, India-UK. These are all destinations where demand for travel has not diminished. Final decisions pursuant to negotiations are expected to be taken soon.”

 “We have received requests from authorities in several countries including the US, France, Germany among others requesting that their air carriers be allowed to participate in the transportation of passengers along the line being conducted by Air India under Vande Bharat Mission. These requests are being examined,” it added.

The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) restricted repatriation flights being operated by Air India, and accused India of being “unfair”, and engaging in “discriminatory practices”. Air India will now need specific authorisation from the DOT to conduct such flights.

“…Effective 30 days from the service date of this Order, it shall not perform any Third- and/or Fourth-Freedom charter flights unless the Department has granted it specific authority in the form of a statement of authorisation to conduct such charters,” the Department said in an order dated June 22.

The US Transportation Department has noted that the Government of India has “impaired the operating rights of US carriers”, and has engaged in “discriminatory and restrictive practices with respect to US carrier services to and from India”.

Meanwhile, in May this year, Baltic countries of Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania opened their borders to each other, creating a “travel bubble”, wherein residents of these three countries can move freely between them. The idea behind this was to help put their economies on track following lifting of lockdowns. This was decidedly the first coronavirus ‘travel bubble’ in Europe, ever since nations worldwide began locking down in the face of the pandemic.

With the pandemic throwing both international and domestic trade and travel out of gear since earlier this year, such ‘travel bubbles’ are now being recommended to keep at least parts of the global economy afloat.

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