Air India is dropping flights to five of its European destinations and closing bases there. Milan, Madrid, Vienna, Copenhagen, and Stockholm will no longer see Air India flights, as the airline moves to cut costs. The decision halves the number of European destinations to which Air India now flies.
Air India drops five European cities, five stay
A report in India Today on Tuesday, August 11 cites an internal Air India note that says;
“In view of the COVID situation, it has been approved by competent authority to close down following stations and become offline.”
While Air India says the decision takes effect immediately, the airline hasn’t flown to any of the five destinations for several months. Air India says it will;
“… immediately initiate action with regard to closure, and advise the timelines by which the stations will be closed.
“The current international booking offices are to be recalled to India, and the station will be handed over to general sales agent after completion of formality of closure.”
That will leave Air India with flights to London, Birmingham, Frankfurt, Paris, and Rome. Air India’s decision comes as India starts to re-open its airports to international flights. It isn’t an open door policy. Instead, India has created travel bubbles with the United States, Canada, UK, France, Germany, and the UAE.
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Airlines step up flights into India
That’s seen Lufthansa announce it will resume four routes into India from this week. British Airways will also restart on four routes into India from next week. Air France and United Airlines are also gearing up for a return to India.
Meanwhile, Air India is tentatively beginning to fly outside India again. To date, the airline has been busy operating flights under the Vande Bharat Mission. The travel bubbles represent the first step back to regular international flights for Air India.
But governments at both ends of the bubbles are exercising a high degree of control over the flights and who travels. India and the other parties to the travel bubbles all have rules in place about who can and cannot enter their respective countries. The travel bubbles don’t change that. They just make it easier to travel if you’re eligible to travel.
India has had a mandatory 14-day quarantine for all incoming passengers in a government-approved facility. That’s still an option, but they’ve unwound the rules a little. For instance, if you have the paperwork to prove you’ve tested negative to COVID-19 within 96 hours of traveling, you can ask for an exemption.
Testing the way of the future for travel?
In the other direction, Germany is allowing travelers from India to transit before traveling onto to destinations such as Canada and the United States. Previously, airlines like Lufthansa had only been allowed to carry passengers one way when flying into India. Now, they can carry passengers in both directions.
Testing facilities at airports such as Frankfurt and Munich allow passengers arriving from India to get a quick COVID-19 test. They’ll get a result within hours, avoiding the need for quarantine there.
It’s the kind of thing we are likely to see a lot more of if international flying is to resume, particularly into hotspots like India. Meanwhile, financially embattled Air India risks getting left behind. The halving of its footprint in Europe is another blow to the airline that is struggling to get traction in a competitive and precarious market.