‘Bubble’ brings relief: Diplomats, OCI card & Indian passport holders can travel on United’s US-India flights

NEW DELHI: The “bubble” has brought good news for people who need to travel between India and US. Air India is likely to announce more flights, including some dailies, between the two countries.
Diplomats, Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) card holders and Indian passport holders can travel on United’s Newark-Delhi and San Francisco-Delhi sectors, said a person in the know. While, Indian citizens with valid documents can travel on United’s India-US flights. United is currently operating only these two routes to India.
These are part of the travel arrangements under the “air bubble” India had on Thursday announced with US, France and Germany. These are interim arrangements made to ensure continuity of travel till resumption of regular schedule flights. Till now, United was operating repatriation flights to India which flew with no passengers and only cargo. On the way out, they were permitted to take only foreigners.

After India announced the air bubble on Thursday, the travel restrictions on who all can travel on foreign carriers’ flights to and from India has been relaxed. Reciprocally, Air India is also expected to announce more flights — some dailies too — between India and US in coming days. To be sure, all these are regulated flights on which who all can fly in and out of India will be as per government norms.
Delta is yet to say when it plans to resume its Atlanta-Mumbai connection.
Comments are awaited from Lufthansa and Air France too about their plans and who all can travel on their flights to and from India under the bubble.
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“United is operating 18 flights between Delhi and US from July 17 to July 31 (Delhi-Newark daily and Delhi-San Francisco thrice weekly). Air France will operate 28 flights to Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru from July 18 to August 1. Lufthansa will also be operating,” an aviation ministry spokesman had said on Thursday.
Air India chairman Rajiv Bansal had said that the average one-way VBM economy fare on US/Canada flights used to be about Rs 1 lakh. “We reduced that by 25% to Rs 75,000. We will bring the fares further down. Similarly fares for VBM flights on Europe and UK routes will also drop,” Bansal said.
Travel under the air bubble will also be regulated depending on entry requirement of each country, including India. It will be a step short of the normal pre-pandemic flights.
Resumption of regular schedule international flights will be considered once domestic air travel reaches 50-55% mark.
India allowed domestic flights to resume after a two-month suspension on May 25 and about 30% of the originally approved schedule is currently operational. “Many international travellers from metros like Delhi and Mumbai need connecting domestic flights to and from these hubs. Domestic travel is steadily rising but we are still at 30% mark. There are restrictions ins many places like Mumbai has capped number of daily domestic flights. Once we reach the 50% domestic capacity mark, then resumption of schedule international will be considered,” aviation minister H S Puri had said.

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