India’s government is negotiating “travel bubble arrangements” with certain countries to enable resumption of some international flights, starting with the USA.

“In an initiative to further expand our international civil aviation operations, air bubble arrangements with US, UAE, France and Germany are being put in place while similar arrangements are also being worked out with several other countries,” Indian civil aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri confirms in a statement posted on Twitter.

“Under this arrangement, airlines from concerned countries will be able to operate flights from and to India, along with Indian carriers.”

In footage of a 16 July press conference posted on YouTube, Puri says the pacts are “interim” measures until pre-Covid-19 levels of travel can be restored. The flights operated on these travel corridors “will carry as many people as possible but under defined conditions”, adds the aviation minister, “because many countries are still imposing entry restrictions”.

The first flights to operate under the arrangement will be United Airlines services linking Delhi with Newark and San Francisco between 17 and 31 July. Puri says that under the arrangements with France, meanwhile, Air France will operate 28 flights from Paris to Bangalore, Delhi and Mumbai between 18 July and 1 August.

India suspended all scheduled passenger flights at the end of March as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. Domestic flights in the country resumed on 25 May, but airlines were restricted to operating at less than 30% capacity.

Puri said on 21 June that international flights would only restart when domestic traffic had reached 50-60% of pre-coronavirus levels and when other countries had loosened travel restrictions.