International flights to and from India have been suspended till 31 December this year in view of the coronavirus pandemic refusing to recede. Planes will fly only on select routes on a case-to-case basis, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said through a circular on 26 November.
The restrictions, however, will not apply to international all-cargo operations and flights specially approved by the DGCA, the authority said. The extended suspension comes at a time when the country’s COVID-19 tally has soared past 9.26 million while 135,223 people have died of the disease.
“In partial modification of circular dated 26-06-2020, the competent authority has further extended the validity of circular issued on the subject cited above regarding Scheduled International commercial passenger services to/from India till 2359 hrs 1ST of 31 December, 2020,” DGCA said in a notification ‘Travel and Visa restrictions related to COVID-19’.
However, these restrictions won’t apply to cargo operations and services approved by the DGCA. The DGCA added that select international flights on limited routes that competent authorities allow on case to case basis.
The aviation regulator had earlier extended the suspension of international flight operations till 30 November and similarity allowed planes to fly on select routes. However, special international flights have been operating under the Vande Bharat Mission since May and under the bilateral ‘air bubble’ arrangements with selected countries since July.
Anyone who wants to travel to foreign countries will have to depend on air bubble arrangements. Under an air bubble pact between two countries, airlines can operate special international flights between their territories.
As of now, India has air bubble pacts with around 22 countries. These are Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bahrain, Bhutan, Canada, Ethiopia, France, Germany, Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Maldives, the Netherlands, Nigeria, Oman, Qatar, Rwanda, Tanzania, the UAE, the UK, Ukraine and the US.
Scheduled domestic passenger flights resumed in India on 25 May after a gap of two months amid the pandemic situation.