Regular flights abroad to start March 27 after gap of 2 years

AFTER A two-year suspension, India will resume scheduled international commercial flights from March 27, the Ministry of Civil Aviation said on Tuesday. While scheduled international flight services have been suspended since March 2020 due to the pandemic, special flights have been operating between India and 37 countries since July 2020 under air bubble arrangements.

🗞️ Subscribe Now: Get Express Premium to access the best Election reporting and analysis 🗞️

“After having recognized the increased vaccination coverage across the globe and in consultation with the stakeholders, the Government of India has decided to resume scheduled commercial international passenger services to/ from India from 27.03.2022, ie start of summer schedule 2022,” the Ministry of Civil Aviation said in an official statement.

It said the international operations will be subject to “strict adherence to the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare guidelines for international travel” dated February 10, which state that all travelers coming to India should either have a full-vaccination certificate or a negative RT- PCR report (test conducted 72 hours prior to boarding).

As the decision comes just ahead of the summer travel season, it will allow airlines to add international flights. This could result in lowering of airfares on some international routes, which have risen in recent weeks due to increasing oil prices and the Ukraine crisis.

A senior government official told The Indian Express that with the decks being cleared to resume operations later this month, the process of finalizing the summer schedule for international flights will commence now. The exercise is conducted by various stakeholders — airlines, airports, civil aviation ministry, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and the Airports Authority of India (AAI) — in coordination with each other.

The decision means that airlines can operate with capacity as decided under the original bilateral air service agreements between India and their home country, instead of the restricted capacities decided under the air bubble arrangements.

So, countries like the US, where the bilateral agreement with India says unlimited flight frequencies can be operated by airlines of both countries, could see a drop in fares of non-stop flights. However, airline executives are wary of the effect of the Ukraine crisis and the consequent airspace restrictions. According to industry sources, rising jet fuel prices and the rerouting of flights due to airspace restrictions have already resulted in an increase in fares for India-US and India-Canada flights.

Prior to the suspension of flights in March 2020, as per the winter schedule of 2019-20 (October 27, 2019 to March 28, 2020), approximately 580 international flights operated from India per day, of which 247 were operated by Indian airlines and 333 by international carriers.

After the first suspension in March 2020, which was valid for a month, the government extended the ban every month. An earlier plan to resume flights from December 15, 2021 was shelved by the government following the emergence of the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

“The demand for international travel is picking up in India, and there has been a significant uptick in travel search queries for popular international destinations like Australia, Sri Lanka, the US and UK. Travel search queries from India for Australian cities like Melbourne, Adelaide and Sydney have jumped 15-20 per cent this month,” said Aloke Bajpai, co-founder and group CEO of online travel platform ixigo.

“We are seeing a trend of travelers now eager to book long-haul destinations, fueled by international borders reopening and relaxation of rules across the globe. Resumption of international commercial flights will also regularize the demand-supply balance, resulting in lower international airfares,” he said.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.