Even as India continues to add to its air bubble arrangements, a number of jurisdictions have began restricting travel from India because of the high Covid19 case-load in the country. However, the broader direction in which the government is moving as far as air travel is concerned is lifting restrictions that were imposed at the time of restarting of operations.
Which countries does India have air bubble arrangements with?
Currently, India has air bubble arrangements with 13 countries. These are the US, the UK, Germany, France, the UAE, Maldives, Canada, Japan, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Nigeria, Qatar and Iraq. The Centre is also negotiating these arrangements with other countries like Australia, Italy, New Zealand, Israel, Kenya, the Philippines, Russia, Singapore, South Korea and Thailand. In addition to air bubble flights, Indian carriers are flying to these countries under the Vande Bharat Mission to repatriate Indian citizens.
Which jurisdictions have restricted air travel from India?
While some countries like Kuwait have a blanket ban on travel to and from India, jurisdictions like Hong Kong have an ongoing suspension on Air India’s flights to its airport till October 3. Hong Kong had banned Air India’s Vande Bharat flights for two weeks after several passengers brought in by the airline tested positive for coronavirus upon testing. Authorities in Dubai also banned Air India Express flights after the airline carried Covid19 positive passengers on two different occasions. The emirate however overturned its ban after the airline profusely apologised. Another west Asian country Saudi Arabia earlier this week announced a ban on travel to and from India, along with Brazil and Argentina, for high caseloads but later allowed Vande Bharat repatriation flights to fly passengers to India from airports such as Riyadh and Dammam.
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What are the relaxations being done to air travel?
On the domestic front, the government has gradually lifted certain restrictions such as relaxing the cap on number of flights from 45 per cent of pre-Covid number to 60 per cent. In addition, on-board meal services have been allowed on domestic sectors. In the latest development on Thursday, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has allowed airlines to decide the baggage rules. Prior to this, the guidelines for resumption of domestic travel — with effect from May 25 — only allowed for one baggage to be checked in per passenger.
By when are regular international flights expected to resume?
The resumption of regular international operations still remains a function of destination jurisdictions allowing travel from India. Speaking at The Indian Express’ Idea Exchange event last month, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had alluded to the fact that it was difficult to anticipate when the other countries allow people from India to come in to their borders. “In our case, we started with a mandatory 14-day quarantine — 7 days institutional and 7 day self quarantine. Now we have introduced an innovation, if you are carrying a certificate of an RT-PCR test done in the last 96 hours you can go through the green channel. We are opening up these things so that we move towards normalcy,” he said.
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