Looking to increase number of international flights under air bubble pact: Jyotiraditya Scindia

The arrangement is reciprocal, meaning airlines of two countries getting into an air bubble agreement will get the same benefit.

The civil aviation ministry is progressively looking at increasing the number of flights to international destinations under the air bubble travel arrangement, which as of November 17 stands with 30 countries.

“I am progressively looking at every country to increase the number of flights under the air bubble arrangement,” Jyotiraditya Scindia, civil aviation minister, said at the Indian Chamber of Commerce annual session. The present focus is on countries where seat load factors have exceeded 70-80%, both ways, he said, adding tourism was the flip side of civil aviation, driving the seat load factor.

India has made air bubble or temporary flight arrangements between countries aiming to restore commercial passenger services with regular international flights suspended due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The arrangement is reciprocal, meaning airlines of two countries getting into an air bubble agreement will get the same benefit.

Scindia said the air bubble arrangement required coordination with the home, health and other concerned ministries, and the civil aviation ministry was collaborator in this regard. While acknowledging the fact that the 4,500 International Air Transport Association (IATA) agents didn’t have a point to collaborate and that there was a lack of policy in terms of securing passengers’ ticket when airlines go belly up, Scindia said his ministry could collaborate with other concerned ministries even when it came to issues (raised by ICC) like insurance against every air ticket or lack of level-playing field for online travel aggregators. But the issues required to be pertinent with the growth and prospects of the Indian civil aviation sector.

Many people lost their money when airlines went belly up during the pandemic. However, Scindia said the sector was moving towards a paradigm shift — from a travel mode for the niche to a travel mode for the mass. Regional connectivity like airports at Darbhanga in Bihar, Jharsuguda in Odhisa and Rupsi in Assam, air connectivity would bring about hyper localisation, driving the growth of the sector. But the helicopter market still remained untapped, prompting the government to frame a helicopter policy.

The civil aviation ministry jointly with the ministry of road transport and highways would create helipads on expressways for emergency evacuation. Under the 100-day programme, there would be 6 new heliports, 5 new airports and 50 new air routes under the Udan scheme within the next one month, Scindia said.

He said while the Rs 30,000-crore Jewar airport at Noida with three new cities would create 5.3 lakh new jobs, the ministry was in hunt for land for a new airport in Kolkata.

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