India will allow resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services from December 15, it was announced on Friday.
However, the government said there will be a calibrated resumption of operations from the countries recognised as "at risk" by the Health Ministry. There are over 10 countries in the "at risk" list including countries in Europe, South Africa, Brazil, Bangladesh, Botswana and China amongst others.
Passenger air services were suspended in late March 2020 due to the nationwide lockdown to check the spread of Covid-19. While domestic flight services resumed from May 25, 2020, international flight services were only maintained via 'Bubble Agreements'.
At present, India has air bubble pacts with 28 countries.
In a circular issued on Friday, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said: "The matter has been reviewed and the competent authority has decided to resume the scheduled commercial international passenger services to/from India with effect from 15 December 2021.
"Accordingly, the scheduled international commercial passenger services to/from India shall remain suspended till 2359 hours IST of 14 December 2021."
India resuming flight operations
The DGCA circular also said that resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services would imply reversion to bilaterally agreed capacity entitlements and termination of air bubble arrangements.
Nevertheless, due to the prevailing Covid-19 situation, the capacity entitlements shall be based on enlistment of countries "at risk" from time to time by the Ministry of Health & Family Welfare.
The DGCA circular also said: "The seats under air bubble arrangement which have already been sold by airlines, which are in excess of the capacity entitlements under bilateral ASAs or traffic rights available with the airlines, will be allowed to be operated till December 14, 2021."
"Such airlines will restrict their operations to capacity entitlements under bilateral ASAs or traffic rights available with the airlines, with effect from December 15, 2021."
The announcement comes at a time when the 'B.1.1529' strain of Covid-19 has been identified in South Africa, and later detected in Hong Kong. Reported to contain up to 30 identified mutations, it is said to be a more transmissible variant of Covid-19.
(With inputs from IANS)