The Indian government addressed concerns from foreign nations on Air India being the only airline allowed to operate international flights from the country and replied that it is willing to discuss establishing bilateral corridors with some countries to facilitate repatriation flights and essential travel.
India's Vande Bharat Mission has run into a stumbling block with the United States Department of Transportation followed by the United Arab Emirates (UAE) asking the Indian airline to seek prior approval before operating any flights to the countries, in apparent retaliation for the Indian government not allowing American carriers to be used for repatriation flights.
“We are taking this action because the Government of India (GoI) 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,” stated a US Department of Transportation (DOT) order.
It said that the Indian government has imposed restrictions that prevent US air carriers from making full use of charter rights.
The new UAE guidelines will be applicable to all foreign carriers which are operating repatriation flights from the UAE.
Passengers will need prior approval from the embassy of the United Arab Emirates in New Delhi and the UAE Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation (MOFAIC) to travel from India to the UAE on these repatriation flights.
Scheduled international passenger flights have been suspended in India since March 25 due to the coronavirus pandemic.
India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) said it is “looking at the prospect of establishing individual bilateral bubbles,” with countries including France, Germany, the UK and the US. “Final decisions pursuant to negotiations are expected to be taken soon,” MoCA said.
MoCA added the government is examining requests from concerned authorities asking that their airlines be allowed to operate the repatriation flights in a similar manner to Air India.
Air India started international chartered flights under the Vande Bharat Mission from May 6 to help people stranded abroad to return home amid the pandemic. It has been operating chartered flights on Indo-US routes since May 18 where tickets on both the legs are sold.