India negotiating with 13 countries to establish bilateral air bubble arrangements, says Hardeep Singh Puri

New Delhi: India is negotiating with 13 countries, including Australia, Japan and Singapore, to establish separate bilateral air bubble arrangements for international flight operations, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Tuesday.

Under a bilateral air bubble pact, airlines of both the countries can operate international flights with certain restrictions.

Since July, India has established such bubbles with the following countries – the US, the UK, France, Germany, the UAE, Qatar and the Maldives.

Puri said on Twitter air bubbles have also been proposed with our neighbours Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal and Bhutan.

Puri said, “We are now taking these efforts forward & are negotiating with 13 more countries to establish such arrangements. These countries include Australia, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Nigeria, Bahrain, Israel, Kenya, Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand.”

Scheduled international passenger flights continue to remain suspended in India since 23 March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Going forward, Puri said, India will consider such bilateral arrangements with countries other than the ones mentioned above. “It is always our endeavour to reach out to every stranded citizen. No Indian will be left behind,” he said.

After a gap of two months due to the coronavirus-triggered lockdown, India resumed domestic passenger flights on 25 May. However, average occupancy rate in Indian domestic flights has been around just 50-60 percent since 25 May.

Currently, airlines in India are permitted to operate 45 percent of their pre-COVID domestic flights.

The aviation sector has been significantly impacted due to the travel restrictions imposed in India and other countries in view of the coronavirus pandemic. All airlines in India have taken cost-cutting measures such as pay cuts, leave-without-pay and firing employees in order to conserve cash.

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