India And Oman Cut Air Bubble Passengers After Positive COVID Tests

India and Oman have cut capacity on their travel bubble following passengers testing positive for COVID-19. Under the new agreement, airlines in each country can only fly 5,000 passengers every week, down from 10,000 previously. India has also moved to ban private carriers on flights to Oman, only allowing state-run Air India on the route.

Air India Express
Only Air India and Air India Express will be allowed to fly to Oman from now on. Photo: Pranjal Pande/Simple Flying

Capacity cuts

The decision to reduce the number of seats comes after passengers tested positive upon arrival in Oman. While exact figures haven’t been given out, the decision likely only came after several passengers tested positive. In a statement to Times of Oman, an Omani Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) official said,

Previously, the limit was 10,000 passengers per week in each direction, to and from Oman. Now the number of passengers has been reduced to 5,000 passengers in one direction on both sides, for the Omani and Indian air carriers. Neither side had achieved the limit of 10,000 per week in one direction.

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Oman Air A330
Airlines in both countries can only fly 5,000 passengers a week under the new agreement. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons

The decision to cut capacity by 50% is a drastic one, but as the CAA notes, neither country had reached the 10,000 weekly passenger limit. This move will impact airline schedules in both countries, with Indian airlines taking a major hit.

Private airlines banned

India has moved to ban private airlines from flying to Oman, only permitting state-owned Air India and Air India Express. This means IndiGo, SpiceJet, and GoAir have stopped their services as of this week.

It’s unclear why the government has decided to ban private airlines and allocate all 5,000 seats to the Air India Group. The move will impact thousands of passengers booked to fly on private airlines.

Indian Airlines
IndiGo, SpiceJet, and GoAir have been asked to stop services to Oman. Photo: Getty Images

Omani authorities have clarified that it has no objection to the private Indian carriers. They also said that Oman Air and SalamAir will continue to fly routes to India as before, adding that while Indian carriers can fly to Oman from any city, Omani carriers can only fly to 11 cities in India.

Travel bubble struggles

India has struggled in the last few months with too many positive passengers on outbound flights. Indian carriers have seen multiple bans from Hong Kong, Saudi Arabia, as well as testing bans from Dubai. The issue with Oman seems to be caused due to the same problem of too many positive passengers.

Air India Hong Kong
Indian airlines have faced multiple bans due to multiple positive passengers. Photo: N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons

One possible solution to this could be to offer rapid COVID-19 tests prior to boarding to ensure all passengers are negative. Airlines globally are currently trailing this model, with hopes it could reopen travel. India too stands to gain a lot from pre-flight testing, helping it avoid bans and offer passengers safety.

What do you think about the decision to cut flights? Let us know in the comments.