On Thursday in a press conference, Union civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri answering a query on travel bubble arrangements said that the future of international flights is highly dependent on the availability of a vaccine. The minister clarified, “It is difficult to say as there is no country which has completely opened its borders for all. It depends on the availability of a vaccine as countries will feel more confident once a vaccine is there.” In an air bubble agreement between two countries, special international passenger flights can be operated by their airlines to repatriate respective stranded citizens who are stranded COVID-19 pandemic. Since the time of the outbreak of the coronavirus, scheduled international flights have been suspended in India. International passenger flight services are suspended until October 31. During the press conference, Hardeep Singh Puri said that the suspension might carry on till March-April. “There are basically three issues to consider before resuming regular international flights. One, resuming domestic connectivity connecting bigger cities to a smaller town, which we have already done. Second, the nature of the virus on which I can’t comment and the third is international restrictions. Every country wants its people to return, but for others, there are plenty of restrictions,” reported Hindustan Times. He also stated that domestic airlines will be allowed to increase their capacity to 75 percent soon from 65 percent capacity. “There is no deadline. But this can happen soon as the domestic numbers are going up. Before this, I said that the pre-COVID domestic number will be achieved between Diwali and New Year. Now I am confident that by the first quarter next year, we will be able to surpass the pre-COVID number,” the civil aviation minister reported the portal.
Pradeep Singh Kharola, a civil aviation secretary said that with the onset of the festive season, it will be the beginning of the second phase of domestic travel. “This marks the beginning of the second phase of domestic travel as we are now gearing up to face the challenge of welcoming more people in the airports as the festive season is almost upon us. We had a meeting with the airlines recently in this regard,” he said.