India To Resume Regular International Flights By The End Of Year

India is inching closer toward resuming regular international flights. Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and other top officials have hinted that we could have normal international services by the end of 2021. India banned all scheduled international flights in March 2020 and has since only resumed flights on specific conditions for each country.

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Passengers face multiple restrictions when flying in and out of India, with flights to certain regions still limited. Photo: Getty Images

Finally

After nearly two years of restrictions, India is preparing to allow the resumption of scheduled international flights. In a statement in the Times of India, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said that normal international flights are next on the list of priorities after most restrictions on the domestic market were lifted.

While he did not specify a timeline, statements from other officials indicate that regular international flights could resume by the end of 2021. This marks a 20-month long ban that has left travelers shouldering high costs and inconveniences in the last few months as global travel resumed.

Air India Boeing 787 Dreamliner
Indian airlines have been pushing for a normalization of flights for months now, citing impacted finances. Photo: Getty Images

However, this decision will be based on input from several parts of government and won’t take place lightly. In a statement, Scindia said,

“I am working on the issue of resumption of scheduled international flights with other Union ministries like home and health. There is no definite decision as of now due to the resurgence of Covid in some countries. The inter-ministerial discussions on the issue will hopefully arrive at a decision shortly.”

Issues

Since international flights resumed last summer, India has taken a strict approach. At first, only Air India was allowed to carry two-way repatriation flights and foreign carriers were largely blocked except for one-off repatriations. In July, India introduced “travel bubbles,” which allowed reciprocal flight rights with individual countries.

However, these “travel bubbles” came with strict rules. The Indian government controlled the total number of flights and blocked connecting flights for Indian travelers. This meant only a limited number of point-to-point flights were authorized at a time. While this was generally fine last year, as traffic ramped up this year, passengers began to see issues.

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Lufthansa found itself in a row with India after its flight permissions were cut unilaterally. Photo: Getty Images

The limited options meant flight prices rose drastically this fall. As hundreds of thousands of passengers flew abroad, ticket prices to the US and UK jumped six-fold in a matter of days. This forced some to take complicated itineraries with breaks or pay exorbitant ticket prices.

The normalization of flights will give travelers the desperately needed option of connecting flights through Europe and the Middle East. Additionally, it will allow better connectivity to countries in East Asia that have had their border closed since last year.

Last step

The current ban on scheduled flights is set to end on November 30th. While this will likely be extended for another month or at least a few weeks, this could be the last notice from the DGCA on the issue. For now, India is nearing the end of restrictions on travel and allowing the aviation industry to make a full recovery.

What do you think about India’s decision to end its travel ban? Let us know in the comments!

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