India may allow normalisation of international flights ‘very soon’

Regular international flight operations are likely to resume soon, said Rajiv Bansal, Secretary of Ministry of Civil Aviation on Wednesday.

Scheduled international passenger flights to and from India were suspended in March 2020 due to the covid-19 pandemic. Recently, the government extended the suspension till 30 November, 2021.

However, the restrictions will not apply to international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by DGCA. Special flights have been permitted under “air bubble” arrangements that India has formed with seperate countries.

Under an air bubble arrangement between the two countries, international passenger flights can be operated by their respective carriers into each other’s territories subject to certain conditions.

In October, the government has allowed airlines to operate domestic flights without any capacity restriction.

Domestic air passenger traffic saw a 27.15% growth last month during the festive season following a decline in Covid cases that gave confidence to more people to travel by air.

Meanwhile, the average number of daily fliers rose to 364,000 during the week ending on 20 November, up from 352,000 a week before, according to broking firm ICICI Securities.

The government is keen to resume normal international travel operations but in a safe environment, civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said recently.

Currently, India has formed air-bubble pacts with around 28 countries, including the US, the UK, the UAE, Kenya, Bhutan and France. Under an air-bubble pact between two countries, special international flights can be operated by their airlines between their territories with specific restrictions

“We are evaluating the process. We are coming back to normalcy. First we allowed 100% passenger capacity in our domestic flights and now we allowed in-flight meals in those flights,” Scindia said at the Confederation of Indian Industry’s (CII’s) Global Economy Policy Summit.

The minister said people have to be careful as the country is still fighting the covid-19 pandemic. “We want to resume international operations but in a safe environment,” Scindia said. “Despite vaccinations, countries like Russia and parts of Europe are fighting the fourth wave of the pandemic. Hence, we cannot let our guard down.”

“Let’s not erase our memories so soon, getting infected with covid-19 virus is the worst thing possible.” He said the industry will see around 2,000 aircraft in the next decade.

He said the decision to resume international flights will be made not by the ministry of civil aviation alone but by other ministries as well. Scheduled international passenger flights to and from India were suspended in March 2020 due to the covid-19 pandemic.

Speaking on the Air India divestment status, Rajiv Bansal said the govt is making all efforts to handover operations of Air India by the end of December.

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