International Flights Resumption Date: Union civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said air bubbles with some foreign countries have already been completed, while some others are at an advanced stage. “Unless the international civil aviation space reclaims its pre-COVID space, air bubbles are the only answer to restart international flights,” the minister said in a press conference on Thursday. Vande Bharat Mission, under which Air India and other private airlines have been repatriating stranded Indians, will pave way for the next phase — which will be air bubbles. Also Read - Air Fare Cap to Remain in Place For Another Three Months: Civil Aviation Minister

Air bubbles are agreements between two specific countries agreeing to allow each other’s flights under specific terms and conditions. “Air France will operate 28 flights this month. With the United States also, we have reached an interim agreement. This is work in progress. We have a request from Germany,” the minister said adding that bubbles can’t be ‘unlimited flights to unlimited destinations’. Also Read - Hyderabad Airport Now Offers e-Boarding For IndiGo, Air India International Flights

“We will carry as many people as we can through these air bubbles. But it will not be as it was before COVID. There will be some checks and balances as the foreign countries are also imposing restrictions. So even if you have a visa and all, special permissions will be required,” the minister said. Also Read - International Flights: Indians Now Can Fly to Tanzania | Check Latest Air Bubble Arrangement Here

International flight services will be resumed with limited scope, the minister said.  The agreements will be of two weeks to begin with after which they will be reviewed.

The issue of air bubbles came to the discussion last month when the US, the UK, the UAE raised objection to Air India’s monopolisation over international flights as far as India is considered. Only Air India was allowed to function under Vande Bharat Mission. However, in the ongoing phase of the mission, several private airlines pitched in.

Commenting on the domestic traffic, the minister said that it has not yet reached 33 per cent of the earlier traffic. “There are restrictions imposed by states. In two-three weeks, the situation I hope will be better. Suppose, we start international flights, which will be mostly in the metro cities, but there are not enough domestic flights to take them from those metro cities to their destinations. Then what will be the use of it?” the minister said.