FAQ: What Is Bilateral Air Bubble? Why Is India Considering It?

So, what exactly are bilateral air bubbles? Why is India considering it at a time when cases are spiking? 

Published24 Jun 2020, 12:03 PM IST
2 min read

Ministry of Civil Aviation on Tuesday, 23 June, said that it has received requests from several countries that their air carriers be allowed to participate in the transportation of passengers along the line being conducted by Air India under ‘Vande Bharat’ mission. The ministry added that it is considering establishing "bilateral bubbles" between such countries.

So, what exactly are bilateral air bubbles? Why is India considering it at a time when cases are spiking? Here’s all you need to know.

What is a travel bubble? How does the concept work?

A travel bubble or a bilateral air bubble is a travel corridor between two countries that wish to reopen their borders and re-establish connections with each other. This is an exclusive partnership considered between countries that have either largely eliminated the virus, or trust the testing numbers.

Which are the countries India is considering travel bubbles with?

India is considering establishing bilateral air bubbles with United States, United Kingdom, France and Germany. In a statement on Tuesday, 23 June, the Ministry of Civil Aviation said that demand to these destinations has not diminished and that the government is considering establishing bilateral air bubbles.

Does this mean international flights to these countries are now operational?

No, the central government has noted that negotiations with the said countries are underway and that a decision is likely to be taken soon.

Why is India considering these bubbles now?

India’s ‘consideration’ for air travel bubbles comes after the United States restricted ‘Vande Bharat’ repatriation flights being operated by Air India – accusing India of being “unfair”, and engaging in “discriminatory practices”.

To enter the US border, Air India will now need authorisation from their government to conduct such flights. France too, has asked India to fly to Paris without bringing incoming passengers.

However, India is also considering such bubbles at a times when it is witnessing a spike in the case load – especially in the metro cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Bengaluru, among others.

Have other countries implemented travel bubbles?

Countries of Estonia, Lithuania, and Latvia were the first to create a bubble allowing free travel within the countries, while restricting outsiders from entering.

Media reports suggest that Australia and New Zealand could be first big countries to strike a travel air bubble, with smaller countries like Fiji and Cook Islands joining them.

According to The New York Times, European Union countries are also likely to reopen air travel in order to revive their economies. However, they are considering blocking American citizens from entering their borders because they feel that the US has failed to contain the virus.

Who will be allowed to travel if these bubbles are created?

There is no clarity on this from the government yet. The Ministry of Civil Aviation is expected to come up with detailed SOPs regarding travel and quarantine rules, if such bubbles are created. Watch this space for more information on this.

We'll get through this! Meanwhile, here's all you need to know about the Coronavirus outbreak to keep yourself safe, informed, and updated.

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