On May 24th, India had its first day of domestic flight resumptions. Despite unprepared airports, flight cancellations, and a plethora of quarantine protocols, the country’s domestic market is beginning its slow path to recovery. On the international side of Indian aviation, however, the government has announced that it will extend its ban on commercial passenger service through June 30th.
The official announcement
The announcement comes from India’s civil aviation authority known as the DGCA – or Directorate General of Civil Aviation. It states that the suspension of commercial passenger services that was first issued on April 14th is now being extended to the very end of June 30th. This extends the international travel ban by a full month.
— DGCA (@DGCAIndia) May 30, 2020
As shown in the DGCA Twitter post above, there are specific exceptions under this policy. International cargo operations will be allowed to go ahead, as well as “flights specifically approved by the DGCA.” This essentially refers to repatriation flights, of which there have been hundreds already. These special repatriation flights fall under the banner operation name ‘Vande Bharat Mission’ and the extensive list of flights for this mission can be found on the Indian government’s official website.
Difficult news for Indian tourism
According to Telangana Today, The Federation of Associations in the Indian Tourism & Hospitality, said two full weeks ago that the Indian tourism industry was in “a state of disbelief and shock.” Knoema reports that in 2018, travel and tourism accounted for just over nine percent of the nation’s GDP. In fact, 8.8 million international tourists were recorded in India in 2016 as per data from the government’s ministry of tourism. The United States, United Kingdom, and Bangladesh were the top three sources for international visitors that year. Visitors from the three countries accounted for about 40% of international tourism.
The Federation of Associations in the Indian Tourism & Hospitality has expressed frustration over the lack of government support. Via Telangana Today, it said:
“The industry has gone numb from a lack of any umbrella direction from the government or without any fiscal & monetary support…Indian Tourism industry goes into a state of shock and disbelief as there were no announcements to support tourism, 10 weeks of constant discussions come to a naught and industry has gone directionless”.
As the Indian government has already extended international travel bans several times now, there is no guarantee that we can count on international flights resuming on June 30th. Instead, those hoping to fly into or out of India should monitor the country’s coronavirus situation and look for signs of steady improvement.
If ‘the curve’ manages to flatten and go into decline, then it may offer some reassurance that the flight suspension policy has a chance of ending. However, as it appears the country is continuously hitting new highs in terms of new cases, June 30th seems unlikely.
Do you think the DGCA should set a date much farther into the future to reduce the risk of false hope? Let us know in the comments.