India has extended the ban on international commercial passenger flights till August 31. The earlier ban on scheduled international commercial services was till July 31.
In the wake of the pandemic, overseas flights were suspended in late March, while cargo flights and those approved by the aviation sector regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, have been permitted to operate.
“The government has decided to extend the suspension on the scheduled international commercial passenger services to/ from India up to 2359 hours IST of 31st August,” the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said in statement.
However, this restriction would not applicable for international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by the DGCA. The ban on international flights was extended even as capacity on domestic routes has been hiked to 45% from the earlier 33%.
To allow gradual movement of passenger traffic during the COVID-19 health crisis, ‘Transport Bubble’ agreements have been signed with the United States, France and Germany. Air France and United Airlines of the US will operate a limited number of international flights under the “air bubble” arrangements with India.
The country has also signed a travel bubble agreement with Kuwait to evacuate stranded passengers both to and from India. Further similar arrangements are likely to be put in place by the aviation ministry to ease passenger movements from different countries. On July 9, India had announced an air bubble with the United Arab Emirates that would be in place from July 12 to 26.
A bilateral air bubble refers to a travel corridor between two countries that wish to reopen their borders and re-establish connections with each other. International flights to and from India have been suspended since March 23 as the COVID-19 pandemic spread across the world to nearly 185 countries. Limited domestic flights have since resumed on certain sectors from May 25.
During the suspension of international flights due to the COVID-19 outbreak in India and other countries, more than 2,500 repatriation flights by foreign carriers to evacuate stranded nationals to and from India were approved by the government.
India reported a record single-day jump of 57,118 COVID-19 cases to push the total tally to 16,95,988 while the death toll reached 36,511 with 764 new fatalities, according to Indian health ministry data today.