The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Friday announced an extension of the ban on international commercial passenger flights in India till August 31, amid the coronavirus COVID-19 crisis. In a circular, the DGCA added that the restrictions will not apply to international all-cargo operations and flights specially approved by it.
"The Government has decided to extend the suspension on the Scheduled International Commercial Passenger Services to/from India up to 2359 hours 1ST of 31st August, however, this restriction shall not apply to international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by DGCA," read the circular.
"It may be noted that during the suspension period due to COVID-19 situation in India, more than 2500 repatriation flights by foreign carriers to uplift stranded passengers to/from India has been approved," it added.
The circular further read, "Under the Vande Bharat Mission, in total Air India and Air India Express have uplifted 2,67,436 stranded passengers and other charters have uplifted 4,86,811 stranded passengers during the period from 6th May to 30th July 2020."
"To allow gradual movement of passenger traffic during the Covid-19 situation, 'Transport Bubble' agreements have been signed with the USA, France, and Germany. Recently, 'Transport Bubble' agreement has also been signed with Kuwait to uplift stranded passenger both to/from India. More similar arrangements are likely to fructify and ease passenger movements from different countries," it added.
On June 20, Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had said that the international flight operations will start only after other countries open their air space or borders.
Puri had said, "Any suggestion that international traffic has opened up and we are the only one not to open up, needs a reality check. The exact time when we will resume international flight depends on the other countries to be open to receive flights. In absence of a decision on resumption of international civil aviation we are left with no option but to continue what I call evacuation and repatriation flights under managed and controlled conditions."
Scheduled international passenger flights were suspended in India on March 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Air India and other private domestic airlines have been operating unscheduled international repatriation flights under the Vande Bharat Mission, which was started on May 6 by the Central government. India resumed scheduled domestic passenger flights on May 25, after a gap of two months.