Indians still stuck in foreign land and want to return to the country will soon have a lot of options to return home, as the government today announced that it has allowed Indian airlines to operate over 1,000 flights under the two phases (3 & 4) of the Vande Bharat Mission.
Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri announced today that they have allowed both private airlines and Air India to operate about 1050 flights under the scheme.
“Under the two phases of the VB mission, we have allowed Air India to operate 300 flights and Indian private carriers have been allowed to operate 750 flights. Of these, the airlines will decide and start operating these flights,” Puri announced at a press conference today.
Air India is the only Indian carrier that has the capability to fly to countries in the UK, US, Europe and Canada. All other private airlines can operate short-haul international destinations.
Among private airlines, Vistara has dual aisle aircraft that can easily fly to the UK but the airline could not start long-haul international flights due to COVID.
The Vande Bharat flights, announced and planned by the Indian government and operated mainly by Air India, is in its third phase and already brought back about 100,000 Indians in 389 flights from across the globe.
While Air India is operating flights under the Vande Bharat Mission, various international airlines from across the globe have operated charter flights and brough in about 143,000 Indians from across the world.
International airlines like Qatar has operated 81 evacuation flights, KLM has operated 68 flights, Kuwait Airways has operated 41 flights, British Airways has operated 38 flights.
Air India CMD Rajiv Bansal said that there is a demand for flights to the US and Canada. “There is a demand for flights to the US and Canada and we plan to launch more flights to meet the demand,” Bansal said.
The government today also announced that they might allow a few more flights to new destinations in its attempt to open the domestic civil aviation in a calibrated manner.
“We will start a few flights to new destinations and further increase the number of flights. I expect that the domestic flights will be back to pre-COVID levels between Diwali, which is in November, and December,” Puri said.
Explaining the slow in increase in flights operations, DGCA Arun Kumar explained that the flights will increase once hub airports like Mumbai and Bengaluru open up.
“Due to restrictions, various of these airports like Mumbai and Bengaluru are not able to operate to its full capacity… The domestic flight numbers will see exponential growth after these big airports open up,” said Kumar.