New Delhi: Union civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri said Tuesday the government was negotiating with 13 more countries on air travel “bubbles”. These include Australia, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Nigeria, Bahrain, Israel, Kenya, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand and neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal and Bhutan.
“We continue to further strengthen the reach and scope of Vande Bharat Mission. Air travel arrangements are already in place with the United States, UK, France, Germany, UAE, Qatar and Maldives. We are now taking these efforts forward and are negotiating with 13 more countries to establish such arrangements. The ongoing negotiations will benefit stranded Indians and the nationals of these countries,” Puri said.
“Air bubbles have also been proposed with our neighbours Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Nepal & Bhutan. Going forward, we will consider such arrangements with other countries also. It is always our endeavour to reach out to every stranded citizen. No Indian will be left behind,” he added.
Scheduled international passenger flights remain suspended in India since March 23 due to the pandemic. Officials said domestic aviation has started picking up slowly, though airlines are permitted to operate 45 per cent of their pre-Covid flights. Domestic flights are operating since May 25 at around 50-60 per cent capacity.