India has confirmed bilateral accords with the United States and France that will enable airlines of these countries to run international flights -- from July 17. Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri apprised on Thursday that arrangements alike with the UK and Germany are being worked out too. "Till international civil aviation can reclaim its pre-COVID numbers, I think the answer lies in bilateral air bubbles which will carry a possible number of people but under defined conditions as countries are still imposing entry restrictions including India," the minister stated at a news conference.
He added, "We are at a very advance stage of negotiations with at least three countries - France, US and Germany for air bubble. Air France will be operating 28 flights from Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru to Paris between July 18 and August 1."
Puri declared American carrier United Airlines will operate 18 flights between the US and India from July 17 to July 31 and Air France will operate 28 flights between Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru and Paris from July 18 to August 1.
Furthermore, United Airlines will operate a daily flight between Newark and Delhi and a thrice-a-week flight between San Francisco and Delhi.
From India, Air India will be conducting flights to France and the US under these bubbles.
The decision comes weeks after the US threatened to take action, accusing India of "unlawful and discriminatory practices" for operating exclusive paid flights under its "Vande Bharat Mission" to bring back Indians from other nations.
Listed international passenger flights have been halted in India since March 23 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The government reopened scheduled domestic passenger flights on May 25.
"We are assuming that by the time Diwali comes this year, we would have 55-60 per cent of pre-COVID domestic flights operating in India," Puri said.