Wednesday, June 24, 2020

Vande Bharat: Air India to operate planes without passengers to Paris as France says no to inbound flyers

New Delhi: In a sudden move, France has from Monday (June 22) started disallowing people to travel on India-Paris leg of Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) flights. However, it is allowing people to travel on the Paris-India sectors of these repatriation flights, said an Air India official.

Ever since VBM started, France was among the few places like North America, UK and Singapore that was allowing people to fly on outbound flights from India.

“On Monday, 78 passengers were booked to fly Mumbai-Paris. The aircraft had to leave Mumbai as a ferry flight (without passengers) as we were not allowed to take them onboard. The return sector (Paris-Mumbai) was a full load. Tuesday’s Mumbai-Paris also went as a ferry flight. Now we will be able to take passengers to Paris on VBM flights when France allows us to do so,” said an AI official.

India is now under increasing pressure from foreign countries to allow their airlines to operate passengers charters on the lines of AI’s VBM flights. “AI’s VBM flights are flying people to certain countries that were allowing allowing certain categories of non-citizens to enter. But now there is increasing opposition to this and foreign countries want their airlines to be allowed to fly charters to and from India,” said a source.

On Monday, the US also took a strong stand by saying Air India VBM flights to the country will need prior approval from a month later for this reason. The US department of transportation order says India “has prevented US carriers from conducting India-US passenger charter operations … AI has been conducting self-described ‘evacuation’ charters between India and the US in both directions since May 18, 2020…. (these) so-called evacuation charters have gone beyond true evacuations and involved sales to any member of the general public able to enter US.”
23/06/20 Times of India
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