India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has increased the number of domestic flights countrywide to 56 per cent of pre-Covid-19 levels, aimed eventual resumption of scheduled international air travel into and out of India.
The winter schedule for domestic aviation, which began on Sunday and will run until 21st March next year, permits a total of 12,983 flights from 95 airports, reported state news agency Wam, citing the aviation regulator said.
According to the Minister for Civil Aviation, Hardeep Singh Puri, domestic flights connecting bigger cities to smaller towns was a pre-requisite to the resumption of overseas flights. This is because many passengers arriving at international airports need connections to reach their final destinations on the domestic route.
When air travel was resumed in India on May 25 after a two-month gap, caused by a total lockdown, the DGCA permitted airlines to operate 33 per cent of their pre-Covid-19 number of flights on the domestic sector. Today’s announcement marks the highest level since the lockdown on a graduated basis.
The DGCA has been allowing overseas repatriation flights of Indian citizens and foreign nationals in both directions. Some special international flights sanctioned by the Ministry of Home Affairs have also been allowed.
"There is no country which has completely opened its borders for all. Everything depends on the availability of a vaccine as countries will feel more confident once a vaccine is there,” said Puri.
Several foreign airlines have expressed interest in resuming flights to India. For now, international flights have been suspended until the end of this month.
Demand for international flights is expected to go up after the Ministry of Home Affairs on Thursday permitted foreign nationals to visit India for any purpose, except tourism. Overseas Citizens of India can also now travel to India. Such visits were prohibited from the start of the lockdown.
“There are three issues to consider before resuming regular international flights. One, resuming domestic connectivity between bigger cities and smaller towns. Second, the nature of the virus on which I can’t comment and the third is international restrictions. Every country wants their people to return, but for others, there are plenty of restrictions,” Puri said.
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