On March 27, scheduled international passenger flights will resume, two years after a ban was imposed to prevent Covid 19 cases from spreading. The government banned all international scheduled flights for a week starting March 23, but it has stretched to nearly two years in the midst of a raging epidemic. The ministry has announced the resumption of such flights and the end of air transport bubbles, which replaced regular scheduled flights over the past two years.
Increased demand and rise in crude oil prices are expected to cause a boost to international capacity and soften airfares, which have been soaring since the move.
The Russia-Ukraine conflict, which necessitated relief flights to bring back stranded Indians in Ukraine, has delayed the process, while the government had originally planned to resume on March 15.
The government of India has decided to resume scheduled international passenger services to India from March 27 after acknowledging the increased vaccination coverage across the globe and in consultation with the stakeholders, the ministry said in a press release.
A relief for airlines is because they can use aircraft on longer sectors, which will result in better use of assets, as a result of resuming international operations. They will be able to improve their revenue earned per seat because fares on international sectors are higher than on domestic routes.
IndiGo, which has around 270 aircraft, had a few grounded planes despite the 100 per cent opening up of domestic travel.
With borders opening for tourists, this step will give an impetus to economic recovery for the sector and the nation. We look forward to connecting our customers to the people and places they love. IndiGo Chief Executive Officer CEO Ronojoy Dutta said the schedule for our international destinations will soon be announced in accordance with these new guidelines.
There were 617 on Monday, which is about 50 per cent of the pre-Covid capacity. India has 37 countries in which it has air transport-bubble agreements. Flights under air transport bubbles are essentially scheduled flights but operate on conditions.
The ticket holders are allowed to sell tickets for only a limited number of onward destinations. Bubble agreements allow for only point-to- point traffic in certain countries. In February, the government relaxed entry restrictions for international passengers. Upon arrival, fully vaccinated travellers do not have to undergo a seven-day home quarantine or an RT-PCR test. The easing came on the back of decline in Covid 19 cases.
The decision was reversed due to the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid 19 in the world, after the government had earlier decided to allow scheduled international passenger flights on December 15th, last year.
The demand for international travel is picking up in India and there has been a significant increase in travel search queries for popular international destinations like Australia, Sri Lanka, the US, and the UK. Resuming international commercial flights will regularise the demand-supply balance, which results in lower international airfares, said Aloke Bajpai, co-founder and group CEO, ixigo.
Rajiv Mehra, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators, said: To get more foreign tourists to come to India, we urge the government to restore all visas that were issued earlier in the day but were suspended due to the Pandemic. We appeal to the government to resume multiple entry visas and e-visas for countries that have been barred from source markets like the UK and Canada. We request the government to extend the validity of free tourist visas until March 31, 2024, without caps on the limit of 500,000 free tourist visas.