COVID-19 pandemic: Suspension of international passenger flights to continue till February 28


New Delhi: The government on Thursday (January 28) extended a ban on international scheduled commercial flights to/from India till February 28 in view of the coronavirus pandemic. The DGCA circular said that the suspension will not affect the operation of international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by it. 

“However, international scheduled flights may be allowed on selected routes by the competent authority on a case-to-case basis,” said the Directorate General of Civil Aviation statement.

Scheduled international passenger services have been suspended in India since March 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic. But special international flights have been operating under the Vande Bharat Mission since May and under bilateral “air bubble” arrangements with selected countries since July.

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India has formed air bubble pacts with around 24 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.

Domestic air traffic to reach pre-COVID level by 2021-end: Boeing India

The domestic air traffic in India is expected to reach the pre-COVID level by the end of this year, said Boeing India President Salil Gupte at a press conference here on Thursday.

Salil Gupte said, “We expect the domestic demand to recover in India first to 2019 levels probably by late this year. The international air traffic (in India) will return to the pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels by 2023.” adding “Overall, the demand in India will return to its baseline growth rate and double by 2030.”

Scheduled domestic flight services were suspended in India during March 25-May 24 period last year due to the lockdown. Currently, Indian carriers are permitted to operate a maximum 80 per cent of pre-COVID domestic flights.

Scheduled international flights have been suspended in India since March 23 last year due to the coronavirus-triggered lockdown. However, special international passenger flights have been operating in India under the Vande Bharat Mission since May and under bilateral air bubble arrangements formed between India and other countries since July.

He further said, “We are in touch with the DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) to ensure they have all the information required for this to happen.” 

On March 13, 2019, all Boeing 737 Max planes were grounded in India by the country’s aviation regulator DGCA after the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines 737 Max plane on March 10 near Addis Ababa, wherein 157 people were killed, including four Indians.

Most of the regulators around the world had suspended Max aircraft in the first half of 2019. SpiceJet is the only airline in India that has Boeing 737 Max planes in its fleet.

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Sagar Biswas

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