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Explained: What the changes in India’s international flight rules mean for travellers

India has extended the suspension of scheduled commercial international flights till January 31. Why? When will regular international flights resume?  

Written by Pranav Mukul , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: December 11, 2021 1:15:45 am
Passengers exiting from the arrivals gate of the international terminal of Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel International Airport, Ahmedabad. (Express Photo: Nirmal Harindran)

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said Thursday it has extended the suspension on scheduled commercial international flights till January 31. This is in line with the practice in place since the onset of Covid-19 in India in March 2020. Additionally, India has also changed its list of ‘at-risk’ countries — travellers from where are subjected to additional health requirements.

Does this mean all international flights will be cancelled?

No, the international flights scheduled right now are operating under special air-bubble arrangements, and these flights will continue to operate as per their schedule. India has air bubble arrangements with 32 countries, including the US, Singapore, Qatar, the UAE, the UK, France, Germany, etc. However, travel to these countries will be subject to their health guidelines.

When will regular international flights be resumed?

India had announced resumption of regular international flights with effect from December 15, but that decision was retracted in light of the Omicron variant of Covid-19. The DGCA had said that a new effective date of resumption will be notified in due course of time. The resumption was to happen in a calibrated manner with a staggered reopening for countries considered ‘at-risk’.

Among the ‘at-risk’ countries, if India has an air bubble arrangement, flights would have been resumed at a 75 per cent capacity as decided in bilateral agreements, and for those without an air bubble, at 50 per cent capacity. For all the remaining countries that are not a part of the ‘at-risk’ category, 100 per cent of the flights had been allowed to resume.

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What are the changes to the list of ‘at-risk’ countries?

The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has removed Singapore and Bangladesh from the list of ‘at-risk’ countries — meaning passengers from these places will be allowed to travel quarantine-free to India. Also, it has added Ghana and Tanzania to the list. Now the list of ‘at-risk’ countries comprises Europe, including the UK, in addition to South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Ghana, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Hong Kong and Israel.

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