India is doing a rolling cancellation of International Schedules every month, and airlines don’t have visibility on when will Indian borders open for scheduled operations till so far. For instance, as I write this, the current closure for international flights (apart from air bubble flights and Vande Bharat flights) is only valid till January 2021, with no new notification for an extension. But I fully expect that this will be rolled over for another month or more in the coming days.
I believe, to open up flights, even in a limited number, airlines need to get a fair indication and notice for when they can open flights again. Customers need notice as to when they can travel again, and visa issuance requires to be regularised.
Anyhow, some airlines are working on longer-term scheduling, and now announcing schedules deep into the year. ANA, the Japanese airline and a Star Alliance member, has announced massive schedule cuts, and the news is not pretty for Indian stations as well.
As per a list of routes being suspended for the summer schedule 2021 (March 28 – October 30, 2021), ANA will suspend flights between Narita and Mumbai (used to be once a day), and flights between Narita and Chennai (used to be three times a week). ANA had very recently launched flights into Chennai. There still seem to be 1-2 flights per week between Delhi and Tokyo Narita that will operate through the summer schedule.
There are also many other routes being put on ice for now, including many flights into US destinations, Australia and Europe, generally places it does not see visibility with the current state of affairs of air traffic resuming anytime soon. For instance, Australia has given feelers that they won’t be opening borders till late 2021 or early 2022. Many launches are being postponed altogether at the moment.
While India and Japan have an Air Bubble agreement, only the following passengers can travel at the moment, which makes it look like only essential travel is happening:
- From India to Japan
- Stranded nationals/residents of Japan and foreign nationals holding valid Japanese visas subject to the border measures and travel restrictions imposed by the government of Japan at the time of travel; and
- Any Indian national holding any type of valid visa from Japan subject to the border measures and travel restrictions imposed by the government of Japan at the time of travel. It would be for the airlines concerned to ensure that there is no travel restriction for Indian nationals to enter Japan with the particular visa category before the issue of ticket/ boarding pass to the Indian passenger.
- From Japan to India
- Stranded Indian nationals;
- All Overseas Citizen of India (OCI) cardholders holding passports of Japan; and
- Foreigners (including diplomats), holding a valid visa issued by an Indian Mission in any category covered under Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) guidelines dated 30.06.2020 as amended from time to time.
ANA states that “Due to the continued impact of COVID-19 as well as related immigration restrictions and quarantine measures, ANA will continue to review and adjust its flight schedule and increase or reduce the frequency of flights accordingly.”
ANA is also supposed to be retiring its entire 777 aircraft fleet ahead of schedule and has already retired 7 of the type over the past ten months.
ANA will axe two Indian routes for the summer schedule of 2021, which includes Chennai and Mumbai. This means if anyone wants to fly to Japan, they either fly the special Air India flights, or the skeletal ANA service via Delhi for the moment.
Were you booked on the ANA flights to Japan later this year? Do share if you received word from ANA already in this regard.
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