After suspending scheduled international flights for nearly two years, India is now looking to resume them as Covid-19 cases have been falling consistently within the country and the Omicron scare is receding globally, according to various media publications.
The civil aviation ministry is reportedly consulting with the health ministry and international flights may resume from March 15, with strict Covid safety protocols in place at Indian airports. However, the civil aviation ministry has made no formal announcement so far.
Scheduled international flights were suspended on March 23, 2020, after the country started seeing a rise in coronavirus cases. The ban was extended from time to time and now will be in effect until February 28.
However, India has been operating special passenger flights since June 2020, after entering into bilateral air bubble agreements. India has so far entered into these agreements with more than 40 countries, and airlines from those countries are allowed to operate commercial passenger flights on a reciprocal basis.
Meanwhile, the health ministry recently issued revised guidelines for international arrivals, with effect from February 14. It has done away with the mandatory seven-day home quarantine and the need for travelers to undertake an RT-PCR test on the eighth day.
They now need to upload a negative RT-PCR report, taken 72 hours before the journey, and upload certificates of the completion of the full primary Covid vaccination schedule.
India resumed domestic flights on May 25, 2020, but the recovery of the country’s civil aviation sector was hampered by the second wave of Covid-19 in April-May last year and the Omicron scare this January.
Rising global crude prices are also proving to be a dampener.
India’s deputy civil aviation minister V K Singh said in the parliament in December that the airlines and airports in India have incurred an estimated loss of 195.64 billion rupees (US$2.61 billion) and 51.16 billion rupees ($680 million) respectively.