The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) extended the suspension of international scheduled passenger flights till January 31, 2022.
This is a return to the monthly extension of international flight bans after the government last month decided to resume scheduled international flights from December 15 onwards and later rescinded its decision.
With the extension on the suspension, international flights will continue to operate under the air-bubble arrangement.
The decision to resume regular international flights from December 15 was put in abeyance in light of the evolving situation pertaining to the Omicron variant of Covid-19. While announcing the scrapping of the resumption, the DGCA had said that the effective date of resumption would be announced in due course.
Separately, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare has removed Singapore and Bangladesh from the list of ‘at-risk’ countries – meaning passengers from these places will be allowed to travel quarantine free to India. Also, it has added Ghana and Tanzania to the list. Now the list of ‘at-risk’ countries comprises Europe, including the UK, in addition to South Africa, Brazil, Botswana, China, Ghana, Mauritius, New Zealand, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, Hong Kong and Israel.
The government had last month decided to resume the scheduled international passenger flights in a phased manner with certain restrictions on flights from at-risk countries. But within a week of this announcement, the Centre retracted its move.
Following the announcement of the resumption, at a review meeting on Covid19 preparedness, Prime Minister Narendra Modi had asked government officials to review the plans for easing of international travel restrictions in light of the emerging new evidence. After this, a meeting chaired by the home secretary decided that the decision on effective date of resumption of scheduled commercial international flights will be reviewed as per evolving global scenario.
On account of the Covid-19 pandemic, the Centre had banned scheduled international passenger flights in March last year, and foreign flights have been operating after that through air bubble arrangements.
The resumption was to happen in a calibrated manner with a staggered reopening for countries considered ‘at-risk’. Among the ‘at-risk’ countries, if India has an air bubble arrangement, flights would have been resumed at a 75% capacity as decided in bilateral agreements, and for those without an air bubble, at 50% capacity. For all the remaining countries that are not a part of the ‘at-risk’ category, 100% of the flights had been allowed to resume.