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India defers full resumption of int'l flights

India defers full resumption of int'l flights

The Indian government has rolled back plans to resume scheduled international flight operations from Dec 15, five days after making the announcement, following the emergence of the Omicron coronavirus mutant.

"In the view of the evolving global scenario with the emergence of new variants of concern, the situation is being watched closely in consultation with all stakeholders and an appropriate decision indicating the effective date of resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services will be notified in due course," civil aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said in a notification on Wednesday (Dec 1), Indian media reported.

India suspended international flight operations, effective Mar 23, 2020. This was periodically extended every month till Nov 30, before the government on Nov 26 announced plans to resume scheduled international flight services.

Prior to Nov 26, international flights operated between India and other countries under bilateral air bubble agreements.

India currently has air bubble agreements with as many as 30 countries – from Afghanistan and Bangladesh to Canada, France, Germany, Japan, Singapore, the UAE, UK and US, among the others.

“Resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services with effect from 15 December 2021 would imply reversion to bilaterally agreed capacity entitlements and termination of air bubble arrangements. However, due to prevailing covid-19 situation, the capacity entitlements shall be as per the category of countries based on the enlistment of countries," DGCA had said in Nov 26 circular.

International flights will continue under air bubble agreements, till further notification, said a senior DGCA official, who spoke under the condition of anonymity.

Bookings (if any) made on scheduled international flights that was supposed to resume from Dec 15 will now have to be rescheduled, the official added.

Major economies across the world have rushed to take precautionary measures after scientists said they had found a highly virulent and possibly vaccine-resistant variant of the covid-19 virus in South Africa.