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India extends international passenger flights ban till May 31 amid Covid-19 surge

NEW DELHI, April 30: India extends international passenger flights ban till May 31 amid Covid surge

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Friday extended the suspension on international flights from and to India till May 31 in view of the second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, during which the country has been reporting more than 300,000 Covid-19 cases daily for over a week now.

“...the competent authority has further extended the validity of circular issued on the subject cited above regarding Scheduled International commercial passenger services to/from India till 2359 hrs IST of 31 May, 2021. This restriction shall not apply to international all-cargo operations and fights specifically approved by DGCA,” the aviation regulatory body said in a circular.

It added that scheduled international flights, however, may be allowed on selected routes on case to case basis.

International flights were first suspended in March 2020 after a nationwide lockdown was imposed to tackle the first wave of the Covid-19 pandemic. The government launched the Vande Bharat Mission in May 2020 to fly home Indians stranded abroad.

“Vande Bharat Mission began during the first wave to repatriate our stranded & distressed citizens & has since then facilitated nearly 82.9 lakh people. Despite personal risk, the corona warriors of civil aviation ensure that the mission continues ahead undaunted,” the Union minister for civil aviation Hardeep Singh Puri wrote on Twitter this morning.

India currently has a bilateral air bubble arrangement for the operation of special international passenger flights with 28 countries, including Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, Bahrain, Canada, France, Germany, Iraq, Japan, the Maldives, Nigeria, Qatar, the UAE, the UK and the USA. The other countries with which India has such a pact are Bangladesh, Bhutan, Ethiopia, Kenya, Kuwait, Nepal, Netherlands, Oman, Russia, Rwanda, Seychelles, Tanzania, Ukraine and Uzbekistan.

Meanwhile, several nations, including Australia and Hong Kong, have imposed restrictions on flights connecting them with India amid a massive uptick in cases in the country.

India extends ban on commercial international flights till end of April

NEW DELHI, Mar 23: India has extended the ban on scheduled international commercial passenger flights to and from the country till the end of April this year.

In effect, this means that India has not allowed scheduled commercial flights to operate to and from the country for over a year due to the coronavirus pandemic. India banned all international commercial flights on March 25, 2020.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation said the ban will not apply to all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by it. “An international scheduled flight may be allowed on selected routes by the competent authority on a case-to-case basis,” the DGCA said.

India has entered into travel bubble arrangements with over 18 countries, including the US, the UK, France, Germany, Bangladesh, Maldives and some countries in West Asia to facilitate travel for people. Flights being operated under the bubble arrangements will continue to be operated.

Transport bubbles or ‘Air Travel Arrangements’ are temporary arrangements between two countries aimed at restarting commercial passenger services when regular international flights were suspended as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. They are reciprocal in nature, so airlines from both the countries that form a bubble enjoy similar benefits.

For travel between India and the US, certain categories of people, including American citizens, legal permanent residents, foreign nationals holding valid US visas or any Indian national holding any type of valid US visa, are allowed to board these flights. Stranded Indian nationals and all Overseas Citizens of India (OCI) with US passports are also allowed on flights from the US to India.

In addition, seamen of foreign nationalities and seamen holding Indian passports are allowed to board these flights subject to clearance from the Ministry of Shipping.

Britain bans non-essential international travel till May 17

LONDON, Feb 23: In view of the spread of COVID-19, United Kingdom Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday announced a ban on non-essential international travel from and to the country till at least May 17.

Though travel and aviation sectors have been among the hardest-hit during the pandemic, the ban came as the new COVID-19 strain has been spreading.

Johnson said domestic overnight stays and self-contained accommodation will be allowed no earlier than 12 April but non-essential international travel will remain banned, Sky News reported.

Highlighting the road map of lockdown, Johnson said, "This is part of the roadmap's second step and it will take place at least five weeks after the first step-- 8 March--but could be postponed if the prime minister and his advisers say it is necessary."

He said the date for international holidays to be allowed is not before 17 May.

The government's Global Travel Taskforce will reconvene to issue a report by 12 April recommending how international trips can resume safely, he said.

Boris Johnson said this will "give people time to make their plans for the summer", Sky News reported.

"As the worst-hit economic sector in 2020, this will ensure we will also be the worst-hit sector of 2021," Sky News quoted Airport Operators Association chief executive Karen Dee as saying.

"The UK and devolved governments must set out sector-specific support to help ensure there are viable airports to be able to restart," Dee said, adding that the Prime Minister's recognition of aviation's important economic role, in particular for businesses that rely on access to international markets or visitors to the UK, was welcome.

Meanwhile, British Airways chief executive Sean Doyle said it is "critical we start looking at a way to restart travel", adding that he is "pleased the government has acknowledged that," Sky News reported.

He added, "We support a data-led approach that protects public health. We want to work with the government's task force on a road map now to ensure that aviation is in a strong position to support the UK as we emerge from the pandemic."

India Issues New Guidelines for Int’l Travellers Amid Worry Over COVID Variants

NEW DELHI, Feb 17: The Union Health Ministry on Wednesday issued fresh guidelines for international travellers coming to India, amid concerns over the different variants of COVID-19, including those found in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Brazil.

The ministry has given an exhaustive list of standard operating procedures (SOPs) to be followed for all international travellers coming to India, as well as additional procedures for those coming from the UK, Europe and West Asia.

The SOPs will be valid from 22 February till further orders and supersede all guidelines issued on the subject since 2 August 2020, the government said.

This comes a day after the government said that four people were detected with the South Africa strain of COVID-19 in India in January this year, while one case of the Brazil variant of SARS-CoV-2 was detected in the first week of February. Apart from this, there are 187 cases of the UK variant reported in India so far.

What do I need to carry to travel to India?

You must submit a self-declaration form, along with a negative COVID-19 RT-PCR report, on the online Air Suvidha Portal (newdelhiairport.in) before the scheduled travel. The test should be conducted within 72-hours of boarding the flight. An undertaking on the Portal or to the Ministry of Aviation must be submitted through the airlines that upon arrival, after which you must follow quarantine rules at home for 14 days or as warranted.

Only in the case of a death in the family, one can travel to India without a COVID-19 test. For this, you must apply on the Suvidha Portal 72-hours before your flight.

What do I need to do before I board my flight?

You need to download the Aarogya Setu application on their mobile phone. Note that only asymptomatic travellers will be allowed to board after thermal screening. Social distancing protocols must be followed, as well as wearing of masks and maintaining hand and environment hygiene.

What happens once I land?

You must undergo a thermal screening and will need to show the self declaration form to health officials once again. If you are found to be symptomatic, you will be isolated and taken to a medical facility. If asymptomatic, you can leave the airport, but must monitor your health for 14 days. You will be given a list of numbers to call in case you develop symptoms later.

If you have applied for an exemption from taking the test, your samples will be collected on priority upon landing, after which you can exit the airport. You will need to monitor your health for the next 14 days.

What happens if I am travelling by sea or land?

You will undergo the same procedure listed above, however, the facility for online registration is still not available for this route. You will have to submit a self-declaration form upon landing.

Do these rules apply to all countries?

It applies to all countries except travellers coming from the UK, Europe and Middle East.

What if I am travelling to India from the UK, Europe or Middle East?

For travellers coming/transiting from the UK, Europe and the Middle East, same protocols as above must be followed, except for clauses on testing, quarantining and isolation.

All travellers arriving from/transiting through flights originated in the UK, Europe and the Middle East shall be mandatorily subjected to self-paid confirmatory molecular tests on arrival at the Indian airports. Entry made in the self-declaration form (SDF) regarding telephone numbers and address would be confirmed. Arrangements for the same will be made available at airport.

What documents do I need to submit as a traveller from Europe, the Middle East or the UK?

You have to submit an SDF for COVID on the online Air Suvidha Portal and declare your travel history (of the past 14 days).

When booking your flight for a transit stop or connecting flight, keep in mind that you need a minimum of 6-8 hours to finish testing protocols. You have to carry RT-PCR Test report and upload it on the portal within 72 hours prior to undertaking the journey.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation also tweeted an algorithm illustrating the standard operating procedure for international arrvials.

Indonesian Plane With 62 Onboard Crashes Minutes After Take-Off

JAKARTA, Jan 9: A Sriwijaya Air plane crashed into the sea on Saturday minutes after taking off from Indonesia's capital Jakarta on a domestic flight with 62 people on board, and their fate was not known.

The Boeing 737-500, en route to Pontianak in West Kalimantan, disappeared from radar screens after taking off just after 2.30 p.m. (0730 GMT) - 30 minutes after the scheduled time because of heavy rain.

Indonesian Transport Minister Budi Karya told a news conference that 62 people had been aboard Flight SJ 182, including 12 crew. The detik.com website quoted him as saying the plane crashed near Laki Island, some 20 km (12 miles) from the airport.

Rescue agency Basarnas said in a statement it would send a team to the Thousand Islands area to help in the search for victims "after the crash of Sriwijaya Air SJ 182".

All those on board were Indonesian, Indonesia's transport safety committee said.

Indonesia's Navy had pinpointed the site of the missing aircraft and ships had been sent there, a Navy official said. Authorities did not say whether they believed there were survivors.

Indonesian airline Sriwijaya Air's chief executive, Jefferson Irwin Jauwena, told a news conference that the plane had been in good condition before the flight.

The nearly 27-year-old Boeing 737-500 was much older than Boeing's problem-plagued 737 MAX model, one of which crashed off Jakarta in late 2018, killing all 189 people aboard the Lion Air flight. Older 737 models are widely flown and do not have the system implicated in the MAX safety crisis.

A Boeing spokeswoman said, "We are aware of media reports from Jakarta, and are closely monitoring the situation. We are working to gather more information".

Reliable tracking service Flightradar24 said the Boeing jet took off at 2:36 p.m. local time (0736 GMT) and climbed to reach 10,900 feet within four minutes. It then began a steep descent and stopped transmitting data 21 seconds later.

A transport ministry spokeswoman said air traffic control at Soekarno-Hatta International Airport had asked the pilot why the plane was heading northwest instead of on its expected flight path just seconds before it disappeared.

There were no immediate clues on what may have caused the sudden descent and safety experts stress most air accidents are caused by a cocktail of factors that can take months to establish.

Indonesian television channels showed pictures of suspected wreckage.

"We found some cables, a piece of jeans, and pieces of metal on the water," Zulkifli, a security official, told CNNIndonesia.com.

Distraught relatives waited at Pontianak, around 740 km (460 miles) from Jakarta.

Yaman Zai, a father of three children who were aboard the plane with their mother, said that he was at the airport in Pontianak waiting for them, when he heard the news.

"I will never meet her again," he said, holding up a photo of his oldest daughter.

Indonesia's KNKT safety agency was expected to launch an immediate investigation. The U.S. National Safety Transportation Board will automatically be part of the probe, since the plane was designed and built in the United States.

Founded in 2003, Jakarta-based Sriwijaya Air group flies largely within Indonesia. The airline has a solid safety record until now, with no onboard casualties in four incidents recorded on the Aviation Safety Network database.

The Boeing 737 is the world's most-sold family of aircraft and has undergone several makeovers since it entered service in 1968.

The 737-500 is two generations of development before the most recent 737 MAX, which has been embroiled in a worldwide safety crisis following crashes in Indonesia and Ethiopia. It does not use the software system implicated in those crashes.

Nonetheless, experts say planes such as Sriwijaya's leased 737-500 are being phased out for newer fuel-saving models. Civil jets typically have an economic life of 25 years, meaning they become too expensive to keep flying beyond that compared to younger models, but they are built to last longer.

Indonesia itself has a patchy air safety record.

In 2007, the European Union banned all Indonesian airlines following a series of crashes and reports of deteriorating oversight and maintenance since deregulation in the late 1990s. The restrictions were fully lifted in 2018.

Between 2007 and 2016, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration lowered its Indonesia safety evaluation to Category 2, meaning its regulatory system was inadequate.

Indonesian officials say they have worked hard to bring safety up to international standards.



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