December 8, 2022

After 2 years, regular international flights may resume from next month – Times of India

NEW DELHI: Scheduled international flights may resume within a month, after remaining suspended for almost 2 years.
It is learnt that the aviation ministry has taken this up with health ministry and is tentatively looking at March 15 or end of next month when the summer schedule kicks in.
This will be a big relief for travellers as relaxed quarantine and testing norms globally — post easing of Omicron — has pushed the demand for travel but limited air bubble flights means fares have skyrocketed for this summer.
Delhi-based former banker Richa Gupta has been wanting to book flights to go to the US this summer and be with her son who is studying in Boston. “The fares currently are Rs 1.07 lakh return in an American airline’s economy. Last January we booked this for Rs 60,000 return. Last December, our son flew to Delhi and back for Rs 1.6 lakh when Omicron was at its peak. Now that the situation is improving, that should be reflected in fares too,” Gupta said.
“Announcing the dates for reopening, whether graded like last time that was planned from last December, will allow airlines to gradually put more flights in the booking system from that or a latest date. Once that happens, the increase supply will mean lower fares,” said an airline official.
UK, for instance, is one of the markets witnessing sharp hikes in fares due to pent up demand to caused by lifting of restrictions there.
A leading Delhi-based travel agent, Anil Kalsi said: “With the UK removing Covid related tests and quarantine restrictions, there is a surge of reservations from India. The fares have shot up by as much as 50%. In the short term, seats are selling for as much at over Rs 1.20 lakh in economy class.”
Scheduled international flights were suspended on March 23, 2020. They were supposed to see a gradual resumption from December 15, 2021, but then Omicron did not allow the same to happen.
The travel industry hopes that India restarts regular flights on a reciprocal acceptance of each other vaccination certificates without further delay.
“We were expecting this to happen last August-September when delta had subsided. However that time the same was delayed so much that bu the time it was supposed to happen, omicron had set in. We should not lose this window now,” said an airline official.
The December 15 shelved reopening had put countries in three different categories for a graded return to normalcy — ranging from 100% of pre-Covid level to 50% depending on whether a country is at risk or not.
From February 14, 2022, India removed the at risk categorisation and replaced that with a list of countries and region from where fully vaccinated passengers can fly in without pre-departure testing, dropped the requirement of home quarantine and testing on day 8 of arrival.
With these rules being relaxed, the next logical thing is to resume regular flight. That may finally happen soon now.

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