As the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage in the country, Indian airlines have cut back on seat capacity in order to curb the spread of the virus. Several countries have banned flights from India. Domestic flights have also witnessed a drop in passengers in the last few weeks.
The daily domestic passenger count has fallen below 1 lakh for the first time in over six months, according to an Aviation Ministry report. In response to low passenger numbers, airlines have reduced their flying schedules and frequencies across popular routes.
Meanwhile, countries such as the US, UK, Dubai, Maldives, and many more, have restricted flights from India due to rising COVID-19 cases in the country. This has also impacted passenger numbers, especially those of Air India.
Commercial passenger flight ticket sales dropped nearly 30 per cent in the month of April 2021. The situation for small carriers is even worse compared to big players such as Air India because of their outreach. Indigo is being seen as the only survivor in the market because of its expanded business.
Air India to begin operations
Air India will begin operating its flight services from London to Mumbai from May 17. However, the national carrier will not be operating on May 18, 23, and 30.
Ban on international passenger flights
All commercial passenger flight movement had been banned in March 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic initially struck India. After a two-month ban, domestic flights began to resume while international passenger flights have remained banned.
Earlier, the Centre had extended the ban on international commercial passenger flights until May 31, 2021. However, these restrictions do not apply to international all-cargo flights. The government is yet to make a decision on the resumption of international passenger flights. India currently has a bilateral air bubble agreement with 27 countries, which are also exempt from international flights.
Restrictions on flights from India
Earlier, Australia had announced a temporary ban on all its direct passenger flights from India. Soon after, Canada, UAE, and Britain also stopped flight operations from India, Later, Indonesia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Oman, Singapore, Kuwait also announced similar bans.
The US is considering re-starting its travel from India, while other countries are expected to tighten their border policy, according to some experts. Currently, Air India and United Airlines are still running flights between India and the US. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia, from May 17, will allow vaccinated individuals to enter their borders, thus opening the country after a year.