India allows US to resume passenger flights from July 23

Agencies/Washington India has agreed to allow US air carriers to resume passenger services in the US-India market starting July 23, the US Transportation Department said on Friday. The Indian government, citing the coronavirus, had banned all scheduled services, prompting the US Transportation Department in June to accuse India of engaging in “unfair and discriminatory practices” on charter air carriers serving India.

The Transportation Department said it was withdrawing an order it had issued requiring Indian air carriers to apply for authorisation prior to conducting charter flights, and said it had approved an Air India application for passenger charter flights between the United States and India. A group representing major US airlines and the Indian embassy in Washington did not immediately comment on Friday. India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation said on Twitter it was moving to “further expand our international civil aviation operations” and arrangements from some flights “with US, UAE, France & Germany are being put in place while similar arrangements are also being worked out with several other countries.”

“Under this arrangement,” it added, “airlines from the concerned countries will be able to operate flights from & to India along with Indian carriers.” The US Transportation Department order was set to take effect next week. The Trump administration said in June it wanted “to restore a level playing field for US airlines” under the US-India Air Transport Agreement.

The Indian government had banned all scheduled services and failed to approve US carriers for charter operations, it added. The US government said in June that Air India had been operating “repatriation” charter flights between India and the United States in both directions since May 7. On Thursday, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said India has signed bilateral agreements with France and the US that will allow airlines of each country to operate international flights.

“Till international civil aviation can reclaim its pre-Covid numbers, I think the answer lies in bilateral air bubbles which will carry a possible number of people but under defined conditions as countries are still imposing entry restrictions including India,” the minister said. The minister said India is planning to establish such agreements with the UK soon under which there would be two flights per day between Delhi and London. “We have got a request from Germans also.

I think the arrangement with Lufthansa is almost done…

We are processing that request,” Puri said.