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National Concerns: With Vande flights facing curbs, India considers ‘travel bubbles’

US curbs Vande Bharat Flights

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US curbs Vande Bharat Flights
US curbs Vande Bharat Flights

In News:

  • The US government has restricted charter flights from India, accusing India of “unfair and discriminatory practices” by violating a treaty governing aviation between the two countries.

News Summary: US curbs Vande Bharat Flights

  • India’s national carrier Air India has been making flights under the Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) to many countries, including the US, to repatriate its citizens during the Covid related travel disruptions.
  • The US said that while Air India has been making flights to and from US and also selling tickets to the public, India has prohibited US airlines flying to the country.
  • The Indian government has prevented US carriers from conducting India-US passenger charter operations involving direct sales to individual passengers or through other distribution systems.
  • The US Department of Transportation (DOT) alleged that such a situation creates a competitive disadvantage for US carriers.
  • In light of this, the US government said that Air India would require prior approval for operating flights to and from its soil from July 22, a month from now, unless the issue of US’ airlines between the two countries is resolved (allowing US airlines also to fly between the two nations).
  • It said that Air India shall not perform any Third- and/or Fourth-Freedom charter flights unless the Department has granted it specific authority.

France also made similar move earlier:

  • France has not been allowing passengers to fly on the India-Paris sector (from India to Paris) of Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) while permitting repatriation of Indian citizens on Paris-India leg (Paris to India) of those flights.

India to consider ‘Travel Bubbles’:

  • In response to the American and French moves, the Indian civil aviation ministry is considering “travel bubbles” between India and the US, France, Germany and UK.
  • The India-US travel corridor could be the first to get activated between specific cities — Delhi and Mumbai on one side and New York, Chicago and San Francisco on the other — next month.
  • Quarantine restrictions for bubble flyers could be milder to facilitate quicker access to key categories of travellers.

About: Travel bubbles

  • Travel bubbles, also known as travel corridors and corona corridors, are exclusive partnerships between countries to open travel between the them.
  • This is usually between countries/cities that are at similar stages in their fight against Covid-19.
  • These countries re-establish connections between them by opening up borders and allowing people to travel freely within the zone without having the need to undergo on-arrival quarantine.
  • The initiative was popularized by the three Baltic states, namely Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, when they formed a trilateral partnership granting citizens of their countries entry into the member countries’ territories.
  • Some country pairs like Australia-New Zealand, which are in similar levels of the pandemic, are in advanced stages of creating the same.

About: Freedoms of the Air

  • The freedoms of the air are a set of commercial aviation rights granting a country’s airlines the privilege to enter and land in another country’s airspace.
  • They were formulated in the Convention on International Civil Aviation of 1944, known as the Chicago Convention.
  • The first two freedoms concern the passage of commercial aircraft through foreign airspace and airports, while the other freedoms are about carrying people, mail and cargo internationally.

Nine Freedoms of the Air:

  • First Freedom of the Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to another State or States to fly across its territory without landing (also known as a First Freedom Right).
  • Second Freedom of the Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to another State or States to land in its territory for non-traffic purposes (also known as a Second Freedom Right).
  • Third Freedom of The Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to another State to put down, in the territory of the first State, traffic coming from the home State of the carrier (also known as a Third Freedom Right).
  • Fourth Freedom of The Air – the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one State to another State to take on, in the territory of the first State, traffic destined for the home State of the carrier (also known as a Fourth Freedom Right).
  • There are five other freedoms where more than two States are involved.

About: International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO)

  • The International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) is a UN specialized agency, established by States in 1944 to manage the administration and governance of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention).
  • ICAO works with the Convention’s 193 Member States and industry groups to reach consensus on international civil aviation Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and policies in support civil aviation sector.

Also Read: National Concerns: Trump extends ban on H1B, other visas

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