India has launched its first set of travel bubbles, due to come into effect from today. The initial countries on the list are the US and France, with Germany coming next and the UK soon after. India is restarting international flights using these travel bubbles, scheduling limited flights with a number of countries.
Restarting international flights
After nearly four months, India has started the slow process of restarting international flights, albeit in a unique way. Instead of opening the skies and allowing scheduled carriers to return, India is forming so-called “travel bubbles” with some high-demand countries. This means only flights from individual countries are receiving permissions.
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The first agreement came with the UAE, allowing for flights between the two countries for 15 days. India is now formalizing these travel bubbles, with the US and France getting the nod to operate flights out of India for 15 days. United and Air France will be representing the two countries for now, with the former starting flights from today and the latter from tomorrow.
United will operate a daily flight from Delhi to Newark, along with a thrice-weekly Delhi to San Francisco service. In total, United will fly 18 flights between today and July 31st. Air France will fly flights from Delhi, Bangalore, and Mumbai to Paris. In total, Air France will operate 28 flights between tomorrow and August 1st.
More travel bubbles soon
India’s Civil Aviation Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, has said more agreements are already in the works. At a news conference, he said talks with Germany are ongoing and Lufthansa will be granted permission to fly to India soon. Lufthansa was one of the first carriers to float plans to fly to India and carry passengers out.
The UK has also been a high-demand destination, with Air India recently adding extra Vande Bharat flights to the country. Mr. Puri mentioned that an agreement with the UK is in the works, with a schedule for two daily flights out of India. It is unknown which airline will operate these flights, but British Airways seems a likely candidate.
What determines the travel bubbles?
For now, it seems the formation of travel bubbles is based on travel demand to and fro the countries. The UAE has seen the most travel demand, with well over 450,000 Indians registering to be repatriation, and thousands wishing to return for work too. The US and UK have seen high demand as well, prompting the government to add extra Vande Bharat flights.
However, not only demand is driving the formation of travel bubbles. The UAE, US, and France have complained of Air India’s monopoly over international flights over India and threatened restrictions if India did not open its airspace. These complaints first prompted India to consider travel bubbles to restart flights.
It should be noted that these travel bubbles are only for 15 days, and it is unknown if India will renew them. The agreement with UAE comes to an end soon, and India has said it will announce whether it will be extended on Monday. This could have an impact on future agreements and we will be sure to follow the story.
For travelers, travel bubbles mean more opportunities to leave India and travel to their countries of residence. It should be noted that border controls are still in place and non-essential travel remains closed. The end of summer and the fall tend to be profitable times for airlines, with thousands traveling for work and education. While demand will be lower this year, airlines will surely be glad to have access to the vast Indian market.
What do you think about travel bubbles? Should continue expanding these bubbles? Let us know in the comments!