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With relaxation of Covid protocol, overseas flights to start soon

A final decision has not been taken by the Centre: Sources
Domestic flight operations are heading towards normal.
Domestic flight operations are heading towards normal.
File Photo

R. Suryamurthy   |   New Delhi   |   Published 17.02.22, 03:15 AM

Scheduled international commercial flights could resume as early as next month with the relaxation of Covid-19 protocols on international passengers. The officials of the aviation ministry are now in discussions with the home and health ministry officials on a possible resumption of flights.

The present ban on international flights is valid till the end of this month.


Sources said the move follows the relaxation in Covid protocols for international passengers by the health ministry. However, a final decision has not been taken by the Centre, the sources said.

They said the airlines have also been sounded off about the possible lifting of the ban. The airlines have started working out the schedule, which would have to be approved by the sector regulator DGCA.

Domestic flight operations are heading towards normal. The passenger load factor was over 85 per cent for all airlines except AirAsia, which was about 83 per cent. SpiceJet is carrying the most passengers with a passenger load factor of 91 per cent.

The health ministry earlier this month issued revised guidelines for overseas travellers, doing away with the mandatory home quarantine for seven days and the need for an RT-PCR test on the eighth day. The guidelines took effect from Monday.

Air passengers found to be symptomatic during screening after arrival shall be immediately isolated and taken to a medical facility. If tested positive, their contacts shall be identified and managed according to protocol.

Global airline body IATA urged the Centre for the “swift normalisation” of international flight operations and called for the discontinuation of air travel bubbles.

“IATA (International Air Transport Association) welcomes the opening of India to international travel without quarantine. We urge that this development be followed swiftly by the normalisation of scheduled international flights to and from India, and the discontinuation of India’s air travel bubbles,”  said Philip Goh, IATA’s regional vice-president for Asia Pacific.

“The resumption of scheduled flights was paused due to the Omicron variant wave and it is now time to move forward and normalise international air services,” he added.

Decision reversal

The DGCA had on November 26, 2021 announced that India will resume scheduled international passenger flights from December 15, 2021. Just a day later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the civil aviation Ministry and the DGCA to review its decision in the wake of the spread of the omicron variant.

India has suspended international flight operations  since March 23, 2020. This has been extended periodically. The flight restrictions do not apply to international cargo operations.

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