“The government has decided to extend the suspension on the scheduled international commercial passenger services to/from India upto 11.59 pm (IST) of August 31, 2020. However, this restriction shall not apply to international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation,” the DGCA said in a statement on Friday.
India had suspended scheduled international passenger flights on March 22 in wake of the corona pandemic. Since then, the DGCA note of Friday said over “2,500 repatriation flights by foreign carriers to uplift stranded passengers to/from India have been approved. Under the Vande Bharat Mission, Air India and AI Express have uplifted 2,67,436 stranded passengers and other charters have uplifted 4,86,811 stranded passengers during the period from May 6 to July 30, 2020.”
“To allow gradual movement of passenger traffic during the Covid-19 situation, ‘transport bubble’ agreements have been signed with USA, France, and Germany. Recently, ‘transport bubble’ agreement has also been signed with Kuwait to uplift stranded passenger both to/from India. More similar arrangements are likely to fructify and ease passenger movements from different countries,” it added.
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The aviation ministry has long maintained that resumption of schedule international flights will be considered once domestic flights reach the 50% mark of the originally approved summer schedule. Schedule domestic flights were allowed to resume after two-month suspension on May 25 and so far airlines are operating about 30% of the summer schedule. They have been allowed to raise the capacity to 45% till November 24 — something that may be relaxed depending on how the pandemic situations pans out and if states relax their caps on flights operations.
Aviation minister H S Puri had said on July 17: “Many international travellers from metros like Delhi and Mumbai need connecting domestic flights to and from these hubs. Domestic travel is steadily rising but we are still at 30% mark. There are restrictions in many places like Mumbai that have capped number of daily domestic flights. Once we reach the 50% domestic capacity mark, then resumption of schedule international will be considered.” Kolkata also serious limitations and does not allow flights on lockdown days.
In a statement, Mumbai Airport said that it has seen 21 flights from July 22-31 under the bilateral “air bubbles” with the US, Germany and France. “CSMIA catered to a total of 3,059 passengers which include 1,185 from Newark (US), 660 from Paris and 1,214 from Frankfurt. Under this arrangement the airport saw airlines such as Air India, Air France, and Lufthansa operating on these routes. The first flight departed from Mumbai to Paris by Air France on July 22, 2020, while the first flight (under this arrangement) arrived from Frankfurt was Air India on July 23,” the Mumbai Airport statement added.