Additional flights will also be scheduled to meet the demand for repatriation from other countries

Vande Bharat Mission Phase 7 began today with 820 international flights scheduled from 19 countries during October. The flights will reach 24 airports across India and help repatriate nearly 1.5 lakh people from these countries, the Ministry of External Affairs said.

These include flights mainly from the 14 countries with whom India has bilateral ‘air bubble’ arrangements in place.

According to the ministry, 16.45 lakh Indians have been repatriated through different modes during the earlier six phases of the Vande Bharat Mission till September 30.

Giving details of Vande Bharat Phase 6 during the weekly media briefing, External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said 894 international flights and 142 feeder flights were operated from 24 countries. These flights reached 24 airports across India, repatriating an estimated 1.75 lakh people, he added.

According to Srivastava, the MEA has undertaken a further assessment of demand for repatriation from other countries and the requirements have been projected to Air India. “Flights will be scheduled for these additional stations in the coming days,” he said.

After the government imposed a countrywide lockdown on March 25 to contain the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, all scheduled commercial passenger flights were suspended. From May 25, domestic flights were allowed to resume their operations in a phased manner.

International flights to and from India continue to be restricted except for those specifically authorized by the Ministry of Home Affairs. The flights are being operated mainly under bilateral air bubble arrangements, which are temporary agreements between two countries. Two countries can have limited air travel under this arrangement in view of the prevailing COVID-19 situation.

India has bilateral air bubble agreements with 14 countries including the US, UK, France, Japan, and the UAE.