India inks separate air bubble pacts with Kenya and Bhutan; international flights remain suspended till Oct 31


New Delhi: Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Wednesday (September 30) that India has established separate bilateral air bubble arrangements with Kenya and Bhutan for the operation of special international passenger flights between the two countries.

Till September 17, India had formed bilateral air bubble arrangements with 13 countries including Afghanistan, Bahrain, Canada, France, Germany, Iraq, Japan, the Maldives, Nigeria, Qatar, the UAE, the UK, and the USA.

Under an air bubble pact between two countries, special international passenger flights can be operated by their airlines into each other’s territories under restrictive conditions.

In a tweet, Puri said, “In order to further boost bilateral international air connectivity air bubble arrangements are now in place with Kenya & Bhutan. Indian carriers will be able to operate to these countries.” 

Puri further tweeted, “Carriers of these countries will be able to fly to India.” 

Scheduled international flights have been suspended in India since March 23 in view of the coronavirus pandemic.

Notably, special international passenger flights have been operating under the Vande Bharat Mission in India since May and under bilateral air bubble arrangements formed between India and other countries since July. 

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Earlier on Tuesday, Air Bubbles with Germany has been suspended, informed the Director-General of Civil Aviation, adding that negotiations are currently underway.

According to the DGCA statement, “India formalised an Air Bubble with Germany in July 2020. An Air Bubble arrangement allows nationals of both countries to travel in either direction. However, there are restrictions in place for Indian nationals desiring to travel to Germany which was putting Indian carriers at a significant disadvantage resulting in an inequitable distribution of traffic in favour of Lufthansa.” 

The DGCA further said that while Indian carriers operated 3 to 4 flights a week, Lufthansa operated 20 flights a week. “In spite of this disparity, we offered to clear seven flights a week for Lufthansa which was not accepted by them. The negotiations continue,” the DGCA added.

Suspension of scheduled int’l passenger flights extended 

Indian aviation regulator DGCA today said that the suspension of scheduled international passenger flights has been extended till October 31, adding “However, international scheduled flights may be allowed on selected routes by the competent authority on a case-to-case basis.” 

The circular said that scheduled international passenger services have been suspended in India since March 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic. But special international flights have been operating under the Vande Bharat Mission since May and under bilateral “air bubble” arrangements with selected countries since July.

It further said that the suspension does not affect the operation of international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by it. 

(With Agency Inputs)

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