Photo has been used for illustrative purposes.
Even as India extended the ban on regular, scheduled international air travel until Oct.31, the Minister of Civil Aviation Hardeep Singh Puri said he expected international flights to be fully operational by the first quarter of 2021.
In a series of media interactions, including a conversation with the Emirates New Agency, WAM, the minister anticipated that the number of domestic flights and passengers would reach pre-COVID-19 levels between the national festival season next month and the New Year.
“Domestic aviation is continuing on a steady growth trajectory. We should touch pre-COVID-19 figures between Diwali and the New Year,” he said. Diwali is one of India’s biggest festivals and falls in mid-November.
Puri recalled that domestic flights in India were suspended on March 23 as part of a lockdown in the fight against the coronavirus pandemic.
Flights have resumed in a graduated manner from May 25.
As of Oct.2, 1,536 flights have carried 176,601 domestic passengers, he revealed.
Full resumption of international flights will depend on the virus situation in the country, Puri said. “I cannot anticipate whether other countries will allow in people from India. We have gone ahead and made the best out of a very difficult situation, navigated through turbulence.”
Pending resumption of scheduled international air travel, India has air bubbles with 16 countries with a few more under negotiation.
Air bubbles are temporary flying arrangements between two countries aimed at restarting commercial passenger services, suspended as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Extending the ban on scheduled international commercial passenger services to and from India till Oct.31, Sunil Kumar, Deputy Director General of Civil Aviation, notified that repatriation flights and some other services will allowed by the government on a case-by-case basis.