The aviation industry's dry spell continues. Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has extended the suspension of scheduled international passenger flights in the country till February 28. The aviation regulator, in a notification issued on Wednesday, said, "The competent authority has decided to extend the suspension of scheduled international commercial passenger services to/from India till 23:59 hours IST of February 28, 2022."
Notwithstanding the latest circular, special passenger flights have been operating between India and as many as 40 other countries under air bubble arrangements made with these countries.
Similarly, the restriction mentioned in latest circular shall not apply to international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by the DGCA. It also noted, that flights under air bubble arrangement will not be affected.
The long spell of suspension
With a few exceptions, the long spell of suspension of international flights continues in India. The scheduled international passenger flights have been suspended in India since March 23, 2020. Around the time, the first lockdown came into effect.
However, last year, on November 26, the Centre had finally announced that commercial international flights would resume on December 15. The relief hardly lasted one day when the sudden spread of and concern over latest Omicron variant forced the regulator to next day announce that it was putting on hold the resumption of flights from December 15.
Things deteriorated faster and further, when on December 1, 2021, the DGCA revoked its November 26 order without mentioning the duration or how long would the suspension of scheduled international flights would continue.
Who all are most affected by the order?
While lack of leisure travellers has affected the entire tourism sector, it is those travelling for work or business that remain the most disadvantaged with restrictions. Some even contested the decision on social media citing a poor link between travel restrictions and spike in Covid cases. "This is ridiculous...What is the point in extending this on a monthly basis? What are the reasons for this extension now? With 250k cases every day in India, how does it benefit restricting international arrivals?" wrote a user. Another user vented, "Is there any logic behind this? How come those passengers coming by flights under air-bubble or other arrangements have different probability of spreading Corona than those who come by normal scheduled flights?"