Covid-19: India extends flight ban until August 31

The restriction does not apply to all-cargo operations, or to flights allowed on select routes on a case to case basis.

The Indian civil aviation regulator on Friday extended the ban on international passenger flights until the midnight of August 31, 2021. However, the ban is not applicable to cargo flights and those approve by the regulator, the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

All scheduled international flights to and from India were banned from March 23, 2020, following the Covid-19 pandemic. The flight ban has been extended towards the end of every month since then by the regulator. However, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has signed bilateral air bubble agreements with 28 countries.

The agreements have seen thousands of Indians including students with admissions to American and other international universities heading abroad regularly.

According to international consultancy Capa, international air traffic under the air bubble agreements has recovered to nearly 50 per cent of the pre-Covid levels. It expects India’s aviation market to pick up steam in the current fiscal, with 16 million international air passengers (as against 10 million in the previous fiscal) and 80 million domestic passengers (53 million).

However, this is still a long way from the pre-Covid era when India had reported 67 million international passengers and 138 million domestic ones.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) has also urged India to restart scheduled international flights and end capacity and fare capping in the domestic market. Willie Walsh, the IATA director-general, had earlier this week suggested that the government should take data driven decisions and withdraw capacity restrictions to let the sector recover.

“Politicians are quick to impose measures but slow to remove them,” he said, pointing out that air travel bubbles were originally aimed for repatriation of people stranded abroad and was not relevant now.

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