The Civil Aviation Ministry on March 8 announced that it will resume regular international flight operations from March 27.
The ministry further added that international operations shall be subject to strict adherence to Ministry of Health guidelines for international travel.
Earlier on February 28, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) extended the ban on regular international flights, until further orders. However, the DGCA said that the flights that are operational under air bubble arrangements, as well as international cargo flights, will continue to operate as scheduled.
“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, i.e. start of Summer Schedule 2022. The suspension of scheduled commercial international passenger services to/from India, thus, stands extended only up to 2359 hrs IST on 26.03.2022 and air bubble arrangements shall accordingly be extended to this extent only.”Ministry of Civil Aviation
The Scheduled international flight services have remained suspended in India since March 23, 2020. However, special international flights have been operating between India and about 35 other 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.
Despite trying to resume the international commercial flight operations, the aviation ministry postponed its plans following the rise in omicron cases.
Limited capacity under bubble flights had led to sky-high airfares. Now even as regular flights resume, it remains to be seen how much fare relief — if any — passengers will get.
The ongoing Ukraine-Russia conflict has pushed crude to several years high of USD 130. Jet fuel prices globally are also at a 14-year high.
Combined with longer routes that many international airlines take to avoid overflying Russian airspace, the additional fuel burden may limit fare correction post resumption of regular flights.
On March 1 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.
The Health Ministry has issued revised guidelines for international arrivals, with effect from February 14, doing away with the mandatory seven-day home quarantine and the need for them to undertake an RT-PCR test on the eighth day.
Apart from uploading a negative RT-PCR report, taken 72 hours before the journey, there is an option to upload certificates of the completion of the full primary Covid vaccination schedule provided from countries on a reciprocal basis.
Also, the demarcation of countries ‘at-risk’ and other countries has been removed. Accordingly, the need for giving samples on the port of arrival and waiting till the result is obtained from countries ‘at-risk’ has been dispensed with.
After a nearly two-year ban, India resumed issuing tourist visas in November last and the decision was met with an initial surge in demand. Last year, the government announced that 500,000 free visas would be issued for international travellers before March 2022.
In 2020, around 6.33 million international tourists and non-resident Indians arrived in India, down from about 18 million in 2019, as per some industry estimates.