Air France is maintaining flights to India as Lufthansa temporarily pulls the plug on its services to the subcontinent. With a travel bubble in place between India and France, Air France continues to fly to the Indian cities of Bengaluru, Delhi, and Mumbai. This comes after the Indian Government accused European airlines of abusing the terms and conditions of the travel bubble between India and European countries.
“Air France is operating flights between India and France under the “bilateral air bubble agreement,” the airline says on its website.
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Despite establishing travel bubbles, it’s not all smooth flying
India has now established travel bubbles to 16 countries. They include Afghanistan, Bahrain, Canada, France, Germany, Iraq, Japan, the Maldives, Nigeria, Qatar, the UAE, Kenya, Bhutan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
Air France has flown to India for decades. Typically, it runs daily flights from Paris-Charles de Gaulle to its three Indian destinations. In addition, sibling airline, KLM normally operates ten flights a week from Amsterdam-Schiphol to Delhi or Mumbai.
In a good year, Air France will carry approximately 700,000 passengers between India and Europe. Almost half of that number transit in Paris, going to or from North America.
Terms of travel bubble allegedly abused by airlines
Under the terms of the current travel bubble, European carriers cannot be allowed to provide this connecting sixth freedom service for Indian citizens and residents. Air France notes this in the conditions of carriage under current travel bubble arrangements. They note the eligibility to travel criteria includes the following condition;
“Indian nationals holding either a valid French visa or valid Schengen visa and destined for Schengen / EU zone only.”
Reportedly, both Air France and Lufthansa had turned a blind eye to this rule. In mid-September, the Times of India said that both airlines had been reminded by the Indian Government to play by the rules.
“Both these airlines have been asked to stop flying people between India and North American in a meeting last week.”
This looks like being the root cause of a recent spat between the German and Indian Governments. The disagreement caused Lufthansa to suspend its flights into India over October. That leaves Air France as the only European carrier flying in.
Hours ago, the German Government temporarily withdrew permission for Air India to fly into Frankfurt. That has caused Air India to cancel a dozen flights through to mid-October, including ten flights from Delhi and two flights from Bengaluru.
Air France keeps flying to India
Meanwhile, Air France seems to have navigated the spat more successfully. The airline is sending a daily Airbus A330-200 to Delhi. Mumbai is seeing an Airbus A350-900 four days a week. Bengaluru is getting an Airbus A330-200 four times a week.
Despite the travel bubble being in place, travel between the two countries is considerably more burdensome than it once was.
“Flight operations are from the three Indian gateways Bengaluru, Delhi & Mumbai in compliance with Standard Operating Procedures and regulations provided by the competent authorities in India,” says Air France.
The airline also notes that the rules and regulations are frequently changing. Passengers need to be at the airport four hours before departure. Outbound passengers from India must have a negative COVID-19 test certificate no older than 72 hours.
The full terms and conditions of Air France’s flights between India and Europe can be found here.