Civil aviation minister Hardeep Puri said on Wednesday that India would open up skies for international air travel once the situation normalises so that such cross-border travel will not pose any danger to citizens.
In a series of tweets, Puri sought to reassure a group of non-resident Indians who are normally resident abroad but are currently stranded in India that they could fly out during the third phase of the Vande Bharat Mission that will operate between 9 June to 30 June. For normal international operations, India has to take into account several factors including the readiness of other countries as well as easing of the domestic travel restrictions that are currently in place in various Indian cities, the minister explained.
“We are continuously monitoring the situation and will consider restarting international flights as soon as situation normalises a bit and poses no danger to our citizens. We will also have to consider that countries where we intend to fly are open to incoming foreign citizens,” the minister said in the tweet.
Puri said that stranded Indians can avail of the Vande Bharat flights, for which Air India has announced opening of bookings on 5 June. They also can return by the flights operated by other countries, the minister explained. The flights that Air India will operate from 9 June would cover destinations in the US and Canada, the minister said. “These flights will also carry outbound passengers to countries which have no restrictions on taking them in. So people can also avail these flights to return to the countries they wish to go,” Puri said.
“Normal International civil aviation operations will only start when they can. Right now, most of our metro cities are under some form of restrictions due to which people from other cities cannot travel to catch flights and we also have requirement for mandatory quarantine on arrival,” Puri said. Also, the behaviour of the virus and its spread will be taken into account before a decision is taken about international travel. Till then flights under Vande Bharat Mission are facilitating both inbound and outbound international passengers, the minister said.
Several foreign governments have so far evacuated more than 1,44,000 of their citizens from India on more than 579 flights since 25 March. These flights have also taken citizens of other countries as well. Several other requests from foreign airlines are in process and will be cleared in coming days, Puri said.