India will resume scheduled international flights from December 15 after the coronavirus-induced suspension, the Aviation Ministry informed on Friday.
The Civil Aviation Ministry, in a statement, said the matter of resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services has been examined in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare.
“The matter of resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services to and from India has been examined in consultation with the Ministry of Home Affairs, the Ministry of External Affairs and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare and it has been decided that scheduled commercial international passenger services to and from India may be resumed from December 15, 2021,” the statement read.
The announcement comes two days after Civil Aviation Secretary Rajiv Bansal said international flight operations are expected to return to normalcy soon, “by the end of this year”.
Scheduled international flights have been suspended in India since March 23 last year owing to the Covid-19 pandemic.
The suspension was extended till November 30, exempting dedicated cargo flights and commercial flights that fall under air-bubble arrangements with the destination countries. However, special international passenger flights have been operating since July last year under air bubble arrangements formed with approximately 28 countries.
“Resumption of commercial international passenger services would imply reversion to bilaterally agreed capacity entitlements and termination of air bubble arrangements,” the Civil Aviation Ministry said in its latest announcement.
If a country wants to operate scheduled passenger flights to another nation, a bilateral air services agreement has to be negotiated to decide how many airlines, ports of entries and total flights (or seats) weekly can be allowed between the two.
The Civil Aviation Ministry wrote a letter to aviation regulator DGCA asking it to take “further necessary action” for the resumption of scheduled international flights. Following this, the DGCA issued a formal notification about the resumption of scheduled international passenger flights.
The ministry noted that the countries the Health Ministry has identified as not “at-risk” of Covid-19 will get “full capacity entitlements according to the bilateral air service agreements.” As per the latest update, the Health Ministry has put countries in Europe, including the United Kingdom, and South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana, China, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Singapore, Hong Kong and Israel under the ‘at-risk’ category.
According to the Aviation Ministry, if a country has been identified to be “at-risk” of Covid-19 and has an air bubble agreement with India, then “75 per cent of pre-COVID scheduled international flight operations of Indian or foreign carrier whichever is higher or a minimum of seven frequencies per week subject to availability of entitlements under bilateral agreements will be permitted”.
Whereas, for a country that has been identified to be “at-risk” of Covid-19 and does not have an air-bubble agreement with India, then only “50 per cent of bilateral capacity entitlements or 50 per cent of pre-COVID operations of Indian or foreign carrier, whichever is higher”, will be permitted.
Under an air bubble agreement between the two nations, airlines of both countries can operate special flights between their territories with certain restrictions.
It also stressed that all scheduled international flights will have to strictly adhere to the Union health ministry’s protocols for international travel issued on November 11 this year.
With PTI inputs