NEW DELHI: There will soon be more flights — at lower fares — to the US, UK and some EU nations, thanks to twin announcements on Thursday. Air India said it will further lower fares of its Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) flights to and from these places. While, the aviation ministry said it is in advanced stages for creating travel bubbles with these countries that will allow their airlines to fly in certain categories of passengers to India.
United, Delta, Air France-KLM and Lufthansa Group will operate more flights here and India has also asked UK to get its airlines to do the same under the special travel arrangement. Repatriation flights being operated in the post-corona and pre-travel bubble era saw these airlines fly into India with no passengers while repatriating people out of here.
“We are working to allow some people to fly in airlines of countries with which we are in talks for creating bubbles. The competition will further bring down fares,” aviation minister H S Puri said.
Air India chairman Rajiv Bansal said the average one-way VBM economy fare on US/Canada flights used to be about Rs 1 lakh. “We reduced that by 25% to Rs 75,000. We will bring the fares further down. Similarly, fares for VBM flights on Europe and UK routes will also drop,” Bansal said.
Minister Puri said India is in “very advanced stage” for creating air bubble with three countries. “Travel under the air bubble will also be regulated depending on entry requirement of each country, including India. It will be a step short of the normal pre-pandemic flights. Air France will operate 28 flights to Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru till August 1. AI will have 13-14 flights to Paris in that timeframe. Lufthansa is also operating. United will operate 18 flights from July 17-31. Delhi-Newark will be a daily and thrice weekly on Delhi-San Francisco route till August 1,” Puri said.
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The US had last month warned that unless its airlines get the permission to operate flights like AI’s VBM, the Maharaja will require permission for every flight to America from later this month. Asked if the talks with US for the bubble will remove this threat, Puri said: “I am confident all issues will be resolved. United currently flies into India with only cargo on its flights (while takin passengers on flights to US). We are working that they are able to bring some passengers on flights to India as per Indian travel rules during the pandemic.”
Some states in India require a list of passengers coming on international flights 24 hours in advance. Complying with this requirement, say foreign airline officials, under their data protection laws India has acknowledged this issue. “Our airlines are complying with all requirements and foreign airlines will also need to do the same. They are facing certain issues with this but the rules of the home and health ministry for travellers have to be followed by all,” Puri said.
Resumption of regular schedule international flights can be considered once domestic air travel reaches 50-55% mark. India allowed domestic flights to resume after a two-month suspension on May 25 and about 30% of the originally approved schedule is currently operational.
“Many international travellers from metros like Delhi and Mumbai need connecting domestic flights to and from these hubs. Domestic travel is steadily rising but we are still at 30% mark. There are restrictions in many places like Mumbai has capped number of daily domestic flights. Once we reach the 50% domestic capacity mark, then resumption of schedule international will be considered,” Puri said.


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