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International flights to remain suspended till Oct 31 amid Covid-19: DGCA

NEW DELHI, Sept 30: Amid rising novel coronavirus cases in the country, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) today stated that suspension on scheduled international commercial passenger services to and from India has been extended till October 31.

The announcement came moments after the Ministry of Home Affairs released a fresh set of guidelines under the Unlock 5 plan in which it mentioned that international air travel of passengers will not be permitted in the current phase of Unlock, except as permitted by MHA.

However, to allow gradual movement of passenger traffic, 'Transport Bubble' agreements have been signed with a number of countries.

Earlier today, the Ministry of Civil Aviation has added more destinations, including Bhutan and Kenya, to the list of countries where Indians can fly. Air bubbles between India and Bhutan and India and Kenya have now become operational, with national carriers of all three nations aiming to restore commercial passenger services to pre-pandemic level.

India has similar air bubble arrangements in place with the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Bhutan, Kenya, Canada, Iraq, Japan, Maldives, Nigeria, Qatar, and UAE.

On Wednesday, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri tweeted, “In order to further boost bilateral international air connectivity Air Bubble arrangements are now in place with Kenya & Bhutan. Indian carriers will be able to operate to these countries. Carriers of these countries will be able to fly to India."

Scheduled international passenger flights continue to remain suspended in India since March 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

After a gap of two months due to the coronavirus-triggered lockdown, India resumed domestic passenger flights on May 25.

However, average occupancy rate in Indian domestic flights has been around just 50-60 per cent since May 25.

The circular said the suspension does not affect the operation of international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by the DGCA.

Lufthansa cancels flights till Oct 20 after dispute with India

NEW DELHI, Sept 29: Lufthansa airlines on Tuesday said that it will not be operating any flights between India and Germany scheduled from September 30th till October 20th as the dispute with Centre deepens.

The German carrier cited “unexpected rejection” of its flight schedule by the Indian government.

“Due to the Indian government’s rejection, Lufthansa will now have to cancel all planned flights between Germany and India between 30 September and 20 October. An updated Lufthansa flight schedule is available for customers,” the airlines said in a statement.

On March 23, India suspended all scheduled international passenger flights due to the lockdown imposed to curb Covid-19 spread. However, under an “air bubble” arrangement with 13 countries including Germany, Centre has permitted special flights to function.

“There are restrictions in place for Indian nationals desiring to travel to Germany which was putting Indian carriers at a significant disadvantage resulting in inequitable distribution of traffic in favour of Lufthansa,” Aviation regulator DGCA said in a statement on Tuesday.

India and Germany had formalised an air bubble in July this year.

“As against Indian carriers operating 3-4 flights a week, Lufthansa operated 20 flights a week. In spite of this disparity we offered to clear 7 flights a week for Lufthansa which was not accepted by them. Negotiations continue,” DGCA added.

Stating that India has not yet accepted Germany’s invitation to talk, Lufthansa urged Centre to work together with the German government in order to “establish a temporary travel agreement between both countries”.

“Such an agreement is necessary to address the urgent need of tens of thousands of Indians and foreign nationals for travel to and from India and would also help balance the interests of both countries’ airlines,” it said.

“This appeal follows the unexpected rejection of Lufthansa’s planned flight schedule for October by Indian authorities. Lufthansa had applied for the continuation of special flights it was granted to operate until the end of September,” the statement further read. “October flight schedule would essentially have been an extension of the already limited number of flights between India and Germany that Lufthansa has been reintroducing to the Indian market since June,” it added.

Japan Airlines gives up 'ladies and gentlemen’ for gender neutral greetings

TOKYO, Sept 28: Japan Airlines is ditching the phrase “ladies and gentlemen” and instead embracing gender neutral terms during in-flight and airport announcements from next month, the company said Monday.

From October 1, JAL “will abolish expressions that based on (two types of) sex and use gender-friendly expression” like “good morning” and “good evening,” said a spokesperson for the airline.

In Japanese, the expression generally used for such announcements is already gender-neutral, but the decision applies to other languages used by the airline.

The decision appears to be a first for major Japanese carriers, with a spokeswoman for rival ANA Holdings saying they would “study the issue based on comments from our customers.”

Same-sex marriage is not legally recognised in Japan but the government has gradually expanded rights protections for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender citizens in recent years.

JAL last year operated a trial “LGBT Ally Charter” flight for same-sex partners and their families, and has already changed rules to extend spouse and family allowances to same-sex partners.

While Japan is relatively tolerant of homosexuality, there are no specific legal protections for gay people.

Japan’s LGBTQ population has campaigned for greater recognition from the government in recent years.

Thirteen same-sex couples filed suits last year accusing Tokyo of discrimination for failing to recognise their unions.

They argue that they are being denied rights accorded to heterosexual couples and hope courts will declare the government’s position unconstitutional.

India Extends Ban On International Passenger Flights Till Sept 30

NEW DELHI, Aug 31: The suspension of scheduled international passenger flights has been extended till September 30, said Indian aviation regulator DGCA on Monday.

"However, international scheduled flights may be allowed on selected routes by the competent authority on a case-to-case basis," noted the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in a circular.

Scheduled international passenger services continue to remain suspended in India since March 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Meanwhile, special international flights have been operating under the Vande Bharat Mission since May and under bilateral air bubble arrangements with other countries since July.

The circular said the suspension does not affect the operation of international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by the DGCA.

20 killed as Air India plane skids off runway

KOZHIKODE, Aug 7: An Air India Express plane with 190 on board from Dubai overshot Karipur’s table top runway and dropped about 35 feet into a gorge on Friday evening. Officials said 20 people, including the pilot Captain Deepak Vasant Sathe and the co-pilot have died in the accident and over 140 more are injured, some of them seriously.

Images from Karipur airport, also known as Kozhikode international airport, showed the aircraft split into two pieces.

Aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said it was raining heavily when pilots of the Boeing 737 plane from Dubai tried to land. According to reports, the plane continued to run at a high speed and skidded off the runway when the pilots tried to stop it.

The regulator said after landing at Runway 10, the plane continued running till the end of the runway and fell into the valley and broke into two portions.

The accident took place at about 7.40 p.m.

There were 190 people on board the Air India Express flight AXB1344 including 174 passengers, 10 infants and four crew members. Air India Express is a subsidiary of state-run airline Air India.

The flight from Dubai was a repatriation flight carrying Indian citizens back to the country under the Vande Bharat Mission, meant to bring home stranded people from other countries amid the Covid-19 pandemic. Regular commercial flights have been halted in India because of the coronavirus outbreak.

Officials said the plane did not catch fire or the casualties would have been higher.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who expressed his pain at the tragic accident, picked up the phone to speak to Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan. “My thoughts are with those who lost their loved ones. May the injured recover at the earliest. Spoke to Kerala CM @vijayanpinarayi Ji regarding the situation. Authorities are at the spot, providing all assistance to the affected,” he said.

Four hours after the crash, Kerala police officers said two people were still trapped and the operation to pull them out was still on.

Officials said the runway - like the one in Mangalore - is on a hilltop with gorges on either side that increases chances of casualties if the plane overshoots the runway.

The accident is similar to the Mangaluru air tragedy when an Air India Express flight from Dubai crashed while landing at Mangaluru airport on 22 May 2010 that killed 158 lives. Eight passengers had a miraculous escape. It was the first major mishap involving the budget airline of the national carrier.

“It was raining heavily. The pilot had given a warning before landing saying the weather was really bad. He tried for safe landing twice but lost control. The aircraft shot off the runway and skidded off and it broke into two pieces. It was a miraculous escape for many,” said a passenger V Ibrahim.

Kerala has been facing heavy rains and inclement weather in large parts of the state.

US global advisory: India continues to be on ‘do not travel’ list

WASHINGTON, Aug 7: The United States on Thursday lifted a “Do Not Travel” Global Health Advisory for Americans but retained it for India saying that not only does the risk of contracting Covid-19 remain high there but, most alarmingly, “if you get sick in India and need medical care, resources may be limited (and overwhelmed)”.

The state department announced the lifting of the global travel advisory for Americans saying in a statement “with health and safety conditions improving in some countries and potentially deteriorating in others” it was switching back to “our previous system of country-specific levels of travel advice (with Levels from 1-4 depending on country-specific conditions).”

For India, the country-specific advisory was “Level 4: Do Not Travel”. The state department said in the updated advisory, “Do not travel to India due to COVID-19.”

The Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which guided the state department revision, said on its own updated travel webpage Americans should avoid “all non-essential travel” to India as the risk of contracting Covid-19 is “high” and, it added, most significantly “if you get sick in India and need medical care, resources may be limited.”

In an interactive cartographic representation of its assessment on the pandemic, the CDC framed its India warning a little differently: “If you get sick in India and need medical care, healthcare resources may be overwhelmed.”

But this advisory can change. “CDC continues to monitor every country in the world, and as they identify that a country is either improving or that a country may be going in the other direction, they will let us know and we will, in turn, make the adjustment,” Karin King, deputy assistant secretary for overseas citizen services, told reporters at a news briefing.

Of the more than 19 million Covid-19 infections worldwide, nearly a fifth — close to 4.9 million — are in the United States, followed by Brazil with 2.9 and India with 2.0 million, according to the Johns Hopkins University tracker.

Of the 713,406 global fatalities, nearly a fifth once again by the same count — over 160,000 — were in the US. Brazil was next with 98,000 deaths and India fifth with 40,699.

Pakistan, by comparison, was safer at Level 3 — “reconsider travel” — in America’s estimation. Nepal and Sri Lanka were both at Level 3. Bangladesh was the same as India at Level 4,

India is resuming limited international travel through bilateral arrangements with other countries under a new set of guidelines that go into effect Saturday, specifying a seven-day institutional isolation for all incoming travelers, followed by another sevens days of isolation at home.

The Trump administratio issued a travel advisory on March 19 asking Americans to avoid all international travel. It had begun banning incoming travelers from certain countries in January starting with China, where the epidemic had started with first human-to-human transmission reported in December.

Over succeeding weeks travelers were banned from Iran, European Union countries, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Brazil. These orders remain in force.

Travelers from the United States were banned from EU countries subsequently and they remain on the unwelcome list because of the resurgence of infections.

India extends suspension of international flights till August 31

NEW DELHI, July 31: Aviation regulator DGCA on Friday extended the suspension of scheduled international flights to and from the country till August 31. However, this restriction will not apply to international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by the DGCA.

“The government has decided to extend the suspension on the scheduled international commercial passenger services to/ from India up to 2359 hours IST of 31st August,” the DGCA said in a statement.

Earlier, DGCA had on July 3 extended the ban on international flights until July 31 after it was suspended till July 15. According to senior government officials, the ban was extended because it was felt that it would take some more time for India to prepare before it can resume scheduled international operations.

To allow gradual movement of passenger traffic during the Covid-19 health crisis, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had also announced ‘Air Bubble’ agreements with the United States, France and Germany. Air France and American carrier United Airlines has operated limited flights to India from Paris and the US.

As of July 13, Air India and Air India Express operated 1103 flights bringing back 2,08,000 Indians under Vande Bharat Mission. “On many of these flights, we ferried back 85289 passengers to various countries across the world,” said Air India CMD Rajiv Bansal.

Puri also said that by Diwali this year, at least 55-60 per cent of pre-Covid domestic flights will be operating in India.

Domestic passenger flight services resumed in the country from May 25, two months after the announcement of the lockdown and suspension of all scheduled commercial passenger flights in India.

 

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