More airlines are slowly restarting international flights from India as COVID-19 restrictions ease. Apart from United Airlines, Air France has also joined the line.
German major Lufthansa is expected to start soon, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said.
Air France will operate 28 flights between Paris, and Indian cities - Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru from July 18 to August 1.
United has already got the go-ahead for 18 flights, from July 17 to August 31. The American airline will operate flights between Indian cities of Delhi and Mumbai, and Newark and San Francisco.
UAE based airlines, including Emirates, have also started these repatriation flights.
"The negotiations with Lufthansa is nearly done," the Minister said. Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola added that many more international airlines have approached to restart operations.
The controlled re-start to international flights, also called air bubbles, comes after many countries, starting from the US, pointed out that their airlines should also be allowed to conduct flights, similar to Air India's under the Vande Bharat Mission.
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The repatriation exercise
Air India and its unit Air India Express, have till now repatriated 2.08 lakh Indians back home under the Vande Bharat Mission. The two airlines operated 1,103 flights till July 13. The carriers also helped repatriate 85,289 individuals of various nationalities on outbound flights from India.
Other chartered flights have flown back over 3.3 lakh Indians. In total, about 6.5 lakh Indians have been repatriated.
In the later phases of Vande Bharat Mission, private airlines, including IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir have also joined the exercise. From 64 flights and 12,000 passengers in the first phase, the exercise got back nearly 90,000 Indians on 255 flights, in the third phase.
Currently, the fourth phase is on, which has repatriated a little over 47,000 passengers on 259 flights. Air India and Air India Express alone have planned 619 flights in the fourth phase of Vande Bharat covering 26 countries.