It has been 90 days since India closed its airspace for normal international passenger flights, inbound and outbound, with effect on March 13. ‘When will flights resume to India’, has been one of the most searched query in Google since then. On June 16, in a follow-up to his earlier indications at the possible resumption of flights to and from India in July 2020, the civil aviation minister said that India would take a call on resumption of international civil aviation operations in July.
“I am often asked, when can you start international civil aviation? If you leave it to me, and if the ecosystem works, and if we have the predictability in terms of behavior of the virus, I think in the coming month we should start taking the decision. Those decisions will not be taken by the Indian Civil Aviation Ministry,” said Mr. Hardeep Singh Puri during a live webinar, ‘Reposing the Faith in Flying’ organized by the GMR Group.
On one hand, nearly 480 special Air India flights have been operated under the Vande Bharat Mission and more than 90K Indians have been brought back from 52 countries since May 6. On the other hand, the steady incidence of COVID19 in India is a stumbling block on the way to restart normal international flights.
On reopening of the domestic aviation sector in the country, Mumbai CSMI Airport permitted only 50 flights to depart and land in total. Starting June 16, Mumbai Airport has doubled the number of domestic operations, giving a signal to possible resumption of international flights in July. Furthermore, United Airlines is all set to resume direct flights to Mumbai and New Delhi from USA by mid-July 2020.
An assessment of the countywide aviation ecosystem will be instrumental in influencing the decision on reopening of the airspace for international passenger flights, according to the officials close to Mr. Puri. The state governments will collectively take the decision in view of ‘their domestic situation’.
In Tamil Nadu, a major South Indian state, Chennai and its suburbs have gone into lockdown again starting June 19 to curb the daily rise in COVID19 positive cases. Referring to this, the civil aviation minister said what they are looking at is to make sure “when we take steps, they are incremental, and they are predictable, and that we increase the ways of travel domestically and that we move in the direction of opening international travel systematically without inviting a backlash.”