By James Mathew
Carriers from both countries are to be allowed to resume scheduled flights in a limited way to select cities in both countries
India is expected to sign an ‘air bubble’ pact with UAE soon to allow regular flight operations between select cities in the two countries, according to an aviation ministry official.
“We are in talks with some of the select countries including UAE to enter into an agreement to resume international flight operations in a limited way. Details such as how many flights are to be allowed and between which Indian and UAE cities initially are being discussed before finalising the agreement,” the aviation ministry official, who did not wish to be identified, told Arabian Business.
“Air bubbles between countries is going to be the arrangement as far as international connectivity is concerned till the virus situation is under control and countries open up,” Economic Times quoted India’s civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri, as saying.
Arabian Business has contacted the official spokesperson of Indian civil aviation ministry for comments on the proposed air bubble pact with UAE.
India recently extended cancellation of international flight operations until July 31.
Currently, Indian carriers including Air India Express, SpiceJet and Indigo, operate a limited number of flights to cities such as Dubai, Bahrain, Muscat and Ras Al Khaimah under the ‘Vande Bharat’ (repatriation flights) arrangement, while UAE airlines such as Emirates, Etihad Airways and Flydubai operate chartered flights to some Indian cities.
From Sunday onwards, the UAE carriers are allowed to carry passengers on their return flights from India. Prior to that, the chartered flights were allowed to carry passengers only one way from UAE, a senior Air India Express official told Arabian Business.
According to airline industry sources, the permission to chartered flights from UAE are allowed to operate as scheduled flights on their return from Indian airports is given only till July 25, as of now.
Some Indian carriers, such as SpiceJet, can also operate as scheduled return flights.
“We currently operate flights to Ras Al Khaimah (RAK) under 3 categories” a SpiceJet spokesperson told Arabian Business.
"We will operate about 25 flights under the ‘Vande Bharat’ arrangement in the current phase (phase 4) starting today (Wednesday). Then we operate chartered flights from RAK to cities such as Kochi, Kozhikode (both in Kerala), Mumbai and Delhi, and we operate these chartered flights as scheduled flights on their return from the Indian cities from July 12 onwards."
Air India Express, which currently flies to Dubai, Muscat and Bahrain, is operating 30-35 flights in the current phase of “Vande Bharat’ arrangement.
Airline industry sources said the airfares between India and UAE have also come down of late.
“A one-way ticket from Kochi to Dubai currently costs about $186, way down from the $330 level in the first phase of the repatriation flights,” the Air India Express official said.