India & Germany To Hold Talks Regarding Travel Bubble Reopening

India and Germany have agreed to hold talks over the status of their travel bubble agreement. The news comes after India refused Lufthansa’s proposed October schedule, forcing it to axe flights until October 20th. Germany responded in kind and suspended Air India’s flights to Germany until October 14th. After a few days of tensions, it seems both sides now wish to negotiate on resuming the travel bubble and future flight schedules.

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Lufthansa and Air India are both Star Alliance members and long-time partners. Photo: Tom Boon / Simple Flying

Holding talks

According to the Hindustan Times, Germany and India have agreed to hold talks over the current conflict. Talks will be held between Germany’s Transport Ministry (BMVI) and India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation on Tuesday, October 6th. Both sides are hoping for a speedy resolution, with thousands of passengers anxiously waiting to fly after all direct flights between the countries were canceled.

Lufthansa A340-300
Both sides hope for a quick resolution, with thousands of passengers anxiously waiting for flights to resume. Photo: Lufthansa

Germany also cited its long history of strong aviation relations with India in hopes that’s a resolution can be reached. For now, Lufthansa’s flights remain suspended until October 20th, which means Air France is the only continental European carrier currently flying to India.

Question over traffic distribution

This current conflict started last week when the DGCA rejected Lufthansa’s October schedule. The airline planned to add flights from Chennai to Frankfurt this month and expand its India schedule. Lufthansa operated nearly 160 rotations in September, with five-flights a week from Delhi, Bangalore, and Mumbai to Frankfurt (plus Delhi to Munich).

However, the DGCA cited the sharp disparity between Indian and German carrier traffic as the reason to block Lufthansa’s schedule. While Lufthansa flies 20 flights a week (going to 23 with Chennai added), Air India only flies 3-4 a week. It also noted the strict border controls in place by the EU as a reason for favorable traffic to Lufthansa.

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Air India only flies 3-4 flights to Germany a week, compared to Lufthansa’s 20. Photo: Getty Images

The DGCA then offered Lufthansa just 7 flights a week to operate in October. This would be just 35% of its current schedule and Lufthansa promptly rejected this offer. The rejection meant that Lufthansa canceled all flights until October 20th and appealed to German authorities.

Germany moved to suspend Air India’s 12 flights until October 14th in response, with Lufthansa urging talks between the two countries. This cancellation of flights has left thousands of ticket holders flying to the EU in a lurch, forcing expensive last-minute changes or waiting several weeks for the next flight.

Limits on connecting traffic

Another underlying factor has been Lufthansa’s vast connecting network through Germany. While travel to the EU in allowed under the travel bubble, traffic to North America and other countries is prohibited. India has previously warned carriers that non-EU connections are not cleared under the travel bubble.

Air France Boeing 777
India has previously warned carriers that they are not allowed to connect passengers beyond the EU under travel bubble rules. Photo: Air France

Germany and India will likely come to a speedy resolution to this current dispute. India is a key market for Lufthansa, and thousands of passengers fly between the two countries and beyond every year. However, this dispute has underlined the issues that governments face when trying to restart international flights.

Have you flown with Lufthansa or Air India this year? How was your experience? Let us know in the comments!

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