Good News: India to lift ban on commercial flights after 20 months. Regular flights to resume in December 2021 (with some exceptions)

On the day that the WHO named a new variant of the Covid19 virus and declared it a new “variant of concern”, India took a step toward opening up commercial aviation after an almost twenty-month long ban on commercial flights into the country.  After recurring bans on commercial flights into India, where only Vande Bharat mission flights or “air bubble” flights into India were permitted, India is now set to allow resumption of all sorts of commercial flights with some exceptions.

Commercial flights to resume on December 15, 2021

As per a new notification issued by the Indian aviation regulator DGCA, the Government of India has allowed the resumption of regular commercial aviation flights, as per the existing bilateral arrangements with various countries, effective December 15, 2021. This means that till December 14, 2021, only countries where special agreements (air bubbles) have been struck will be allowed to operate flights to India.

However, the resumption of flights into India will be dictated by, if India, has figured if the other country is  “at-risk” or not. Take a look below at an excerpt of the notification, which sketches who can resume flights and who cannot.

For reference, the current list of at-risk countries updated on November 26, 2021, is as under:

  1. Countries in Europe, including The United Kingdom
  2. South Africa
  3. Brazil
  4. Bangladesh
  5. Botswana
  6. China
  7. Mauritius
  8. New Zealand
  9. Zimbabwe
  10. Singapore
  11. Hong Kong
  12. Israel

As a result, regular commercial flights will not resume from some countries on December 15, 2021, but instead, air bubble flights will continue to operate wherever applicable. For reference, India has air service agreements with over 100 countries, so these countries will likely start mounting flights to India in the coming days.  Here is what this will mean:

  • 100% capacity returns on flights, for instance, between India and USA, Canada, Australia, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka and Thailand, also allowing for transfers between, for example, India and USA on middle-eastern carriers.
  • 75% capacity returns on countries with at-risk status in India, but with an air bubble arrangement with India. There will need to be a minimum of 7 frequencies a week in these cases. This will mean, for instance, flights between India and France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Germany etc., will return, but not as much as full pre-pandemic capacity. This will block them from legally carrying Indian passport holders between India and the US, for instance.
  • 50% capacity returns on countries with at-risk status in India, but without an air bubble arrangement with India. This will mean, for instance, flights between India and China, Hong Kong, South Africa and Brazil can return, but not as much as full pre-pandemic capacity. However, they won’t be blocked from carrying traffic between India and other countries, such as the USA, if they choose to resume.

You can read the full text of the order here.

Bottomline

India has allowed the resumption of air travel between India and most other countries in total, apart from some countries such as those in Europe and South-East Asia, where these countries have been put on a watchlist of at-risk countries. Scheduled traffic can resume on December 15, 2021, which should give passengers more options and allow for a breather on the fares.

What do you make of the resumption of air travel from India? Questions? Drop them below. 


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About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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