Regular int'l flights likely from summer

NEW DELHI: India may restart regular international flights this summer, when a substantial number of people worldwide are expected to be vaccinated, senior officials told ET.

“In three to four months, we expect that a substantial number of people will get vaccinated across the globe. That will bring in exemption from tests and quarantine measures for vaccinated passengers and will help bring normalcy in flying,” said a senior government official who did not want to be identified.

This matter will be part of the consultations that the aviation ministry will have with the home ministry on resuming international flights. The home ministry, in its guidelines on easing Covid-19 restrictions issued on Wednesday, said for further opening up of international air travel of passengers, the civil aviation ministry would take a decision in consultation with the home ministry. However, India’s resumption of international flights would also depend on how other countries respond and demand for travel, the officials said.

“Restart of regular international flights will depend a lot on the response from other countries but we have flight bubbles with so many countries, which could be looked at initially,” said a senior government official on condition of anonymity.


IndiGo CEO Ronojoy Dutta said on an earnings call on Thursday that short-haul international flights may start during the April June period and the government is working on “reopening international gradually.”
India banned regular international and domestic flights in March as part of its measures to control the spread of the coronavirus. Limited international flights by Air India were allowed under the Vande Bharat Scheme in early May and they were later expanded to allow flights by foreign carriers under the bubble arrangement.

India has bubble flight agreements with 23 countries including the US and the UK. The agreements are temporary arrangements between two countries aimed at restarting commercial passenger services when regular international flights are suspended and are reciprocal in nature. With countries including India starting their vaccination drives, the International Air Transport Association too is in favour of resuming cross-border flights and removing travel restrictions for vaccinated individuals.

Greece, Poland, Latvia, Lebanon and the Seychelles have proposed to remove travel restrictions for vaccinated individuals. Germany and the US are implementing testing regimes to facilitate travel. India mandates passengers arriving from overseas, except the UK, to board flights only with Covid-19 negative certificates.

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