Final nod to come from the health ministry. Scheduled international passenger flights have been banned in India from March 23, 2020. Special flights are operating between India and approximately 40 countries since July 2020 under air-bubble arrangements.
An inter-ministerial committee of officials from the ministries of home affairs, health and family welfare, civil aviation and the director-general of civil aviation (DGCA) will meet this week to take a call on lifting the ban on regular international flights, officials told Moneycontrol. The ban is in force till the end of this month.
The meeting will take into account the COVID-19 situation in India and determine whether scheduled international commercial flights can be restarted from March 1, officials said.
While officials from the DGCA and the civil aviation ministry have proposed to lift the ban, the final nod is likely to come from the ministry of health and family welfare, which is closely monitoring the COVID-19 situation.
“The decision is yet to be taken by health ministry officials as some states with a high inflow of international traffic are still showing a rise in COVID-19 cases,” a government official said.
Civil aviation ministry and DGCA officials are also scheduled to meet senior officials from the domestic and international airlines this week after the inter-ministerial meeting to discuss measures to ensure smooth transition of restarting international flights and to discuss increasing frequency of flights under air bubble agreements, officials said.
“If the health ministry does not give a go-ahead, the ministry will discuss with airlines the need to increase the frequency of flights under air-bubble agreements as well,” one official said.
The civil aviation ministry is keen to restart international operations soon as domestic airline capacity in India has recovered well after the third wave of COVID-19. They are currently operating at around 85 percent of pre-pandemic levels, officials said.
Ban and air-bubble arrangements
The ban on scheduled international passenger flights has been in place in India since March 23, 2020. However, special passenger flights have been operating between India and approximately 40 countries since July 2020 under air-bubble arrangements.
India currently has air transport bubbles with 40 countries, including Canada, France, Germany, United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the US.
The aviation ministry had earlier announced plans to resume regular international flights starting December 15, 2021, but rescinded that order following the rise in Omicron cases.The DGCA, in January, had extended the suspension on international flights from and to India till February 28, in view of the rising Coronavirus cases across the world.