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India bans international flights till July 31

NEW DELHI, July 3: In the wake of coronavirus outbreak, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) today has decided to suspend all the international flight operations in the country till July 31. Earlier, the aviation regulator had cancelled the international flights till July 15.

However, the DGCA may permit international flights on some selected routes during this period. "The international scheduled flights may be allowed on select routes on case-to-case basis," said the aviation regulator.

India suspended all the domestic and international flight services in the last week of March. The domestic flights have started operations in limited routes after a gap of two months in May. The domestic airlines have ferried close to two million passengers since then, a senior government official earlier said.

The international passenger flight services in the country will resume in a phased manner during 'Unlock 2.0', the ministry of home affairs said on Monday. "International air travel of passengers has been permitted in a limited manner under the Vande Bharat mission. Further opening up will take place in a calibrated manner," the central government said in a statement.

Nearly 6 lakh Indians have returned to India under Vande Bharat Mission

To bring back the stranded Indians from across the world, the central government started Vande Bharat Mission on May 7. Air India and several other private domestic airlines have been operating flights under this repatriation mission. Over 4.75 lakh Indians have returned to India from abroad since it has started, the ministry of external affairs said on Thursday.

"As on July 1, against a total number of 5,83,109 people who registered their requests with our missions abroad for repatriation to India, over 4,75,000 have returned under this mission," ministry of external affairs Anurag Srivastava said.

The Vande Bharat Mission has entered its fourth phase from Thursday onwards. "Under Phase-IV of the Vande Bharat Mission, we will be operating more than 500 flights. This includes both Air India and private carriers who are ramping up their operations in a big way," Srivastava said.

In a tweet, the civil aviation Ministry said, "Private Airlines will have significant participation in Phase-4 of VBM. Among others, IndiGo will operate 238 flights from Qatar & 219 flights from Kuwait; while GoAir will operate 41 flights from Kuwait. Number of pvt carriers, flights & destinations likely to increase."

Under the fourth phase of the mission, Air India will send 114 flights to 17 countries across the world. These countries are Canada, the US, the UK, Kenya, Sri Lanka, Philippines, Kyrgyzstan, Saudi Arabia, Bangladesh, Thailand, South Africa, Russia, Australia, Myanmar, Japan, Ukraine and Vietnam.

VFS Global, a visa outsourcing and technology services provider for governments and diplomatic missions worldwide, is all set to resume visa application services in India. Travellers will be able to apply for specific visa categories for Belarus, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ireland, Italy, Norway, Portugal, South Korea, Turkey, UAE, and United Kingdom.

"After specific embassies or consulates, as well as local authorities have given their approval, VFS Global's centres will accept visa applications for select countries and visa categories in specific cities," the company said in a statement.

India suspends international flights till July 15

NEW DELHI, June 26: Commercial international flights to and from India will continue to remain suspended till July 15, according to a government release issued on Friday.

A circular released by the Director General of Civil Aviation in New Delhi said that “scheduled International commercial passenger services to/from India shall remain suspended till 23:59 hours IST of 15th July,2020.”

It specified that this restriction will not apply to international cargo operations and flights specifically approved by the aviation regulator.

The official release goes on to say that some international scheduled flights on “selected routes” may be allowed by the competent authorities on a case to case basis.

The government is currently running the third phase of Vande Bharat Mission- one of the largest citizen repatriation programmes undertaken by any government to evacuate people stranded in different countries after suspension of international commercial airline operations due to coronavirus pandemic outbreak.

The regular international commercial flight operation was suspended on March 22 by the Indian government immediately before the imposition of the first phase of complete lockdown to fight the spread of coronavirus disease.

On June 20, the civil aviation minister had said that the resumption of international flights depended on other countries being open to receiving flights. However, he had expressed hope that the domestic flights will be restored to their full capacity by the year end.

Explaining the problem, the minister had explained that many countries had put conditions on entry of people in their jurisdictions including restrictions on entry of foreign nationals and this had left India with little option but to keep the flights suspended.

He gave examples of the US, the UK, France, China, UAE and Singapore to state his point.

India has managed to move a total of 182,313 passengers till June 24, 2020 under the Vande Bharat Mission, which began on June 11, according to the latest data released by the ministry on Thursday. Air India group has operated a total of 1,414 flights till yesterday.

The government is also looking to explore the possibility of establishing bilateral arrangements with countries to allow their carriers to operate flights from India.

38,000 stranded Indians to be repatriated in 3rd phase of Vande Bharat Mission

NEW DELHI, June 4: A total of 107,123 Indians stranded across the world have been brought back to the country so far in the first two phases of Vande Bharat Mission, India’s largest repatriation operation.

State-run Air India has so far operated 103 flights in the second phase of Vande Bharat Mission, which began on May 17 and will continue till June 13, external affairs ministry spokesperson Anurag Srivastava said on Thursday.

“Phase II of Vande Bharat has progressed well…The Indian Navy has also made sorties to bring back returnees from Sri Lanka and the Maldives,” he said.

Around 38,000 Indians are expected to be repatriated during the third phase of Vande Bharat Mission on 337 international flights from 31 countries, including 54 from the US, 24 from Canada, and 11 flights from Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Kenya, Seychelles and Mauritius.

The third phase will cover more sectors and create additional hubs in remote regions.

Since the operation started on May 7, a total of 454 flights, including those by foreign carriers, have brought back the stranded Indians. The 107,123 Indians repatriated so far included 17,485 migrant workers, 11,511 students and 8,633 professionals.

More than 32,000 Indians have returned through land border immigration checkpoints from Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh.

A total of 348,565 Indians have so far registered with missions abroad to be repatriated on compelling grounds, Srivastava said.

After the Union home ministry issued fresh guidelines on May 24, the process of non-scheduled commercial flights has been streamlined and this resulted in further facilitation of Indians returning by chartered flights and air ambulances.

“There is a significant increase in the number of returnees via land borders too with the finalisation of guidelines in this regard,” he said.

International flights could resume in July: Hardeep Puri

NEW DELHI, June 1: As the airlines inch toward the critical mass of 50 to 60 percent operations in the domestic circuit, aviation minister Hardeep Puri underscored on Monday that it will help in their ability to resume international flights also. He added he will help “facilitate a calibrated reopening of the sector”.

International flights have been banned in the country since March 22. Soon after the Centre’s Unlock 1 guidelines, with an “economic focus”, allowed for reopening of the economy in a phased manner, the aviation regulator DGCA on Saturday said the suspension of scheduled international commercial passenger flights will continue till June 30.

Domestic passenger flight services resumed in the country from May 25 after a break of two months since the first lockdown was announced on March 25.

“MHA guidelines for lockdown 5.0 have further opened up inter & intra-state travel, will facilitate calibrated reopening of the sector. As we move towards the critical mass of 50-60% operation of domestic flights, our ability to resume international operations will also improve,” said Hardeep Puri.

The minister cited the lockdown situation in many metros and how they are still in varying stages of opening up thus proving to be an impediment in resuming international flight operations.

“Within India, most international flights operate from the metros where travellers arrive from neighbouring cities & states. Our metro cities were under various degrees of lockdown which are beginning to be lifted. Some of them are still allowing only limited flights to operate,” said Puri.

International air travel, metro rail services, cinema halls, gyms, swimming pools, bars, entertainment parks, and auditoriums will remain closed and open only in the third phase. Large gatherings, including social, political, religious, and sporting events are also banned for now. The third phase of the un-lockdown plan will focus on the resumption of these activities. No date, however, has been set for this.

Another problem, as pointed out by the minister, is that many foreign destinations are not taking in incoming passengers.

“Numerous citizens have been approaching us to restart international flights. Several factors need to be addressed. Many international destinations are not allowing incoming passenger traffic, except for their own citizens or diplomats,” said he.

Earlier last month, the minister said if the situation improves and the “virus behaves in a predictable manner”, then the commercial international flight operations could start as early as the middle of June.



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