In his live media address today, civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri discussed developments in the Vande Bharat Mission (VBM); air bubbles with US, France and Germany; Air India disinvestment process and drone technology among others.
On the subject of international flight operations, Puri said, “Until international civil aviation can reclaim its pre-Covid numbers, I think the answer will lie through bilateral air bubbles which will carry a possible number of people but under defined conditions as countries are still imposing entry restrictions including India.”
Air bubbles: India is at an advanced stage of negotiation for the travel bubble with some countries currently.
International carrier Air France will operate 28 flights between Paris and Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru from July 18 to August 1.
Around 18 flights will be operated between India and the US from July 17 to July 31, on an interim basis.
Request from Germany for a potential air bubble between the two regions is also being processed. Agreements with Lufthansa are being worked out.
In the case of the UAE flights, a review will be done for the ongoing air travel arrangement between India and the UAE in the next few days.
Repatriation drive update: As part of the VBM, Air India and Air India Express have operated 1,103 flights and brought back 2,08,724 Indians and helped repatriate 85,289 individuals.
Air India disinvestment: “Air India Privatisation is not only necessary but leaves us with no option,” said Puri.
In the meantime, the national carrier is looking at ways to steadily increase its revenues and at the same contain costs by reducing debts, lease rentals, operating costs and staffing costs. Air India will try to reduce dependency on the government.
Drone technology: Drones are expected to play a key role under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan(or Self-reliant India Mission) and the government is working on the challenges which include:
- Concerns around national security, criminal acts, safety and privacy violations.
- Inadequate funding and insurance for startups.
- Negligible budget for drone research and development.