India examining requests to allow foreign carriers in Vande Bharat mission

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Air India. (File Photo: IANS)

New Delhi:  The Centre is examining requests from countries like the US, France and Germany to allow their airlines participation in the Vande Bharat mission.

The mission is a Centre-backed programme to repatriate Indians stranded abroad due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

At present, Air India and domestic private carriers are allowed to operate flights under the programme which has pre-fixed ticket charges.

The development comes after the US restricted Air India’s flight operations there under the programme.

In a statement on Monday, the US Department of Transportation (DoT) said that a foreign air carrier of India “will be required, effective 30 days after the service date of this Order, to obtain prior approval from the Department in the form of a statement of authorisation before operating any Third and or Fourth Freedom charter flights to or from the US”.

“We are taking this action because the government of India has impaired the operating rights of US carriers and has engaged in discriminatory and restrictive practices with respect to US carrier services to and from India,” it added.

On its part, the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation said that it has received requests from concerned authorities in several countries, including the US, France and Germany, among others, requesting that their air carriers be allowed to participate in the transportation of passengers along the line being conducted by Air India under the Vande Bharat Mission.

“These requests are being examined,” the ministry said in a statement.

“We have also had one round of negotiations with the US on June 15 with representatives of the US Department of Transportation and US Embassy on this issue. They were invited to submit precise proposals in this respect. A communication has now been received on June 19 detailing these requests,” it added.

According to the statement, the Centre is now looking at the possibility of establishing bilateral arrangements.

“These evacuation flights, which were primarily meant for evacuation of our citizens from all over the world, are now increasingly carrying Indians and citizens of other countries out bound to countries where they are normally residents,” the statement said.

“As we contemplate further opening up in response to demands, we are looking at the prospect of establishing individual bilateral bubbles, such as India-US, India-France, India-Germany and India-UK,” it added,

As per the statement, travel demand for these destinations has not diminished.

“Final decisions pursuant to negotiations are expected to be taken soon,” it said.

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