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Explained: Why India may not resume commercial international flights

The Ministry of Civil Aviation had on Friday announced that international scheduled commercial flights will resume from December 15 after a 21-month ban.

Written by Pranav Mukul , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: December 2, 2021 2:31:44 pm
The decision has been taken in light of the evolving situation pertaining to the Omicron variant of Covid19. (ANI)

India may not resume commercial International flights from December 15, as planned earlier, in light of the evolving situation pertaining to the Omicron variant of Covid-19.

Why has the government decided to keep the December 15 plan in abeyance?

In an order Wednesday, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said: “In view of the evolving global scenario with the emergence of new variants of concern, the situation is being watched closely in consultation with all stakeholders and an appropriate decision indicating the effective date of resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services shall be notified in due course”.

What led to the decision?

Following the announcement of the resumption last week, at a review meeting on Covid19 preparedness, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked government officials to review the plans for easing of international travel restrictions in light of the emerging new evidence. After this, a meeting chaired by the home secretary on Sunday decided that the decision on the effective date of resumption of scheduled commercial international flights will be reviewed as per evolving global scenario.

What was the original plan?

The Ministry of Civil Aviation had on Friday announced that international scheduled commercial flights will resume from December 15 after a 21-month ban. A senior DGCA official confirmed that this means, as of now, the December 15 date is being kept in abeyance. The resumption was to happen in a calibrated manner with a staggered reopening for countries considered ‘at-risk’. These include Europe, including the UK, in addition to South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel. Among these countries, if India has an air bubble arrangement, flights will be 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 were allowed to resume.

Is international travel being restricted by other countries?

Yes, a number of countries are restricting travel from south African countries including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Botswana, etc in addition to curtailing travel from jurisdictions where the new variant has been detected. Starting Monday, the US started to prohibit travellers from South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Namibia, Lesotho, Eswatini, Mozambique and Malawi from coming to the United States. Similarly, Canada, the UK and several EU countries have also introduced restrictions for travellers from South Africa and its neighbouring countries. Some countries like Japan have also decided to completely shut down international air travel, and have even asked their airlines to not take forward bookings from International passengers.

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