India extends ban on scheduled flights until September 30

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The DGAC circular also stated that the suspension does not affect the functioning of international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by it.
Image Credit: Bloomberg

Dubai: India has extended its suspension of scheduled international passenger flights until September 30, aviation regulator DGCA said on Sunday.

“However, regular international flights may be authorized on routes selected by the competent authority on a case-by-case basis,” added the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.

Regular international passenger services have been suspended in India since March 23, 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic. But special international flights have been operated as part of the Vande Bharat mission since May 2020 and under bilateral “air bubble” agreements with certain countries since July 2020.

India has concluded air bubble pacts with around 25 countries. As part of an air bubble pact between two countries, special international flights can be operated by their airlines between their territories. The DGCA circular stated that the suspension does not affect the functioning of international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by it.

India’s approach first

Since the start of the pandemic last year, India has operated flights under “air bubble” agreements, giving the country’s airlines an advantage. The “India First” approach on some routes ensures that Indian carriers do not face direct competition from operators in the UAE or other countries.

A report from CAPA India – an aviation consultancy firm – said COVID-19 air bubbles had met the Indian government’s long-term goal of local airlines carrying more than half of international traffic, increasing the share at 53%, compared to 43.2 in pre-COVID-19 times.

At present, India has bilateral agreements with Bahrain, Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Canada, Germany, France, Japan, Iraq, Kuwait, Kenya, Nepal, Maldives, Nigeria, Netherlands, Qatar, Oman, Rwanda, Russia, Seychelles, Tanzania, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates, Uzbekistan, United Kingdom and United States.

However, some countries that had “air bubble” deals with India banned air travel to and from the country during the height of Wave 2. These countries were Australia, Canada, Bangladesh, Germany, France, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Italy, Kuwait, Iran, New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Oman, the United Arab Emirates and Singapore.

While some countries lifted the ban later, many others have yet to do so.

The UK recently elevated India to its Orange List of countries. The rise means travelers from India no longer have to undergo institutional quarantine upon entering the country.

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