US moves to restrict Vande Bharat flights, India to negotiate

The US DoT order says the department has decided to take this action because the Indian government has “impaired the operating rights of US carriers, and engaged in restrictive and discriminatory practices”. India said negotiations will take place.

n a late-night development on Monday, the US Department of Transportation has ordered that after 30 days, if Air India is to operate any Vande Bharat flights from and to the United States, it will require prior authorisation from the US authorities.

The DoT order, that India Today TV has in its possession, says the department has decided to take this action because the government of India has “impaired the operating rights of US carriers, and engaged in restrictive and discriminatory practices”.

The US Department of Transportation alleges that this is in contravention of the US-India Air Transport Agreement.

Air India has been operating repatriation flights to and from the United States under the Vande Bharat Mission since May 18. As per the latest schedule under phase 3 of the mission, the last flight in and out of the US will be operated on July 3, with plans to add more flights under phase 4.

The order from the US states, “On May 19, 2020, an official from the Department advised Air India of the Department’s concerns that some, if not all, of Air India’s so-called evacuation charters have gone beyond true evacuations (at least on India to the United States segments) and involved sales to any number of the general public able to enter the United States.”

The order states that a request from Delta Airlines to the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation on May 26 to operate similar repatriation flights is yet to receive approval.

Speaking to India Today TV, top Ministry of Civil Aviation sources have said that India is not averse to allowing US carriers to operate flights to and from India, and negotiations will take place concerning the same.

These sources added that India is in the process of creating “air bubbles” with countries willing to allow flights in and out of their airspace, and this could be a step in the direction of resumption of full scheduled commercial international passenger flights.

Source: India Today

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