India Extends Passenger Flight Suspension Until May 17th

India has extended its suspension of domestic and international flights until 23:59 (local time) on Sunday, May 17, due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic. During this time, all bans on passenger flights and interstate train travel will remain in place, with the only exception being cargo flights and those approved by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The prolonging of the air travel ban comes after an announcement from the Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) on May 1 that they would expand the travel ban by a further two weeks.

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India adds a further two weeks to its flight ban. Photo: Getty Images

While deciding on Friday to extend the ban by a further 14 days, government officials did say that there would be a relaxation of the rules in certain zones to help promote economic activity. The zones that will see an easing of the rules are designated as orange and green zones in the governments’ coronavirus containment plan.

The Indian government will relax the rules in certain zones

Green zones are districts in which there have had no confirmed cases of the coronavirus within the last 21 days. In green zones, people will be allowed to resume all activities but with caution.

Orange zones include districts that neither fall into the red zone (most coronavirus cases) or the green zone (zero cases in the last 21 days). In the orange zones, where 44% of India’s population resides, most economic activity will be allowed to resume with some restrictions still in place.

Red zones such as New Delhi and Mumbai will continue to see residents strictly adhering to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions imposed by the government. Under India’s current lockdown, individuals that live in red zones are advised to stay home with only essential businesses such as pharmacies and food shops remaining open.

All forms of interstate travel remain banned

Irrespective of what zone you are in, traveling by air, railways, metro, and interstate movement by vehicle are all banned. Schools, restaurants, hotels, gyms, cinemas, sports complexes, and all houses of worship shall, for the time being, remain closed.

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India is considering letting Indian carrier fly through military air space Photo: Getty Images

As India passes 40 days of the lockdown, the country has seen its highest single-day spike in new coronavirus cases, with over 2,600 reported on Saturday. According to the Health Ministry, the number of coronavirus cases in India now stands at 39,980, with 1,301 deaths. As of today, India has 28,046 active coronavirus cases, with 10,633 people having recovered from the deadly disease.

The Indian military salutes frontline workers

To show their appreciation for all the doctors and medical staff treating coronavirus patients, the Indian Air Force flew fly-pasts showering hospitals around the country with flower petals. The Indian Navy will also show its appreciation to the frontline workers today by lighting up its ships at sea in support of the COVID-19 warriors.

Other than the on-going repatriation flights and cargo operations, all flights in India remain grounded as the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus crisis.

Airlines have, of course, been walloped by COVID-19 and will struggle to get back to how business was before coronavirus restrictions were put in place. In what is a little bit of good news for Indian passengers and airlines, the government has decided to allow Indian civilian airliners to fly through restricted military air space. What this means is that pilots can now fly straight lines rather than having to go around certain areas, which should equate to shorter flight times and greater fuel savings.