New Delhi: The Union Civil Aviation Ministry is planning to remove in phases the restrictions imposed on international flights in view of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The ministry is in the process of drawing up the list of countries, including the US, to which international services can resume, sources in the ministry said.
The US, France and Germany had approached India to allow the private carriers of those countries to start their services.
The ministry held discussions with the officials of the US embassy over resuming flight operations, the sources said. They said in the first phase, international services will be allowed to those countries with whom India can reach an agreement on easing the flight restrictions.
Some countries, like the UK and Australia, have arranged for chartered flights for their citizens through their embassies in India.
The ministry has also received requests for facilities to make work-related travel to foreign countries possible, they said.
The Indian government has been operating Air India services as part of its Vande Bharat Mission to bring back expatriates stranded in other countries. However, there have been complaints that many are finding it difficult to get a ticket on a Vande Bharat flight.
US says Vande Bharat services will need its approval
The US has told India that from July 22, each and every service under the Vande Bharat Mission to that country can be operated only with its prior approval.
The move is seen as a retaliation to India not yet allowing US private airlines to restart their services.
The Air India services under the Vande Bharat Mission are being operated with an aim of making profit and not with the intention of rescuing people stranded abroad due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the US has alleged.
Under such circumstances, not allowing US private airlines to start their services amounts to discrimination, it said.
India has announced flights till July 15 from the US under the Vande Bharat Mission. If India doesn’t resolve the matter, then the US decision is likely to affect the flight services intended under the next stage of the Mission.
Meanwhile, the Union Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan said the US restrictions on chartered flights from India are governed by international agreements and that it will be sorted out soon.