India is set to resume international flights on Sunday after a gap of two years. The big move has been taken amid widening global vaccine coverage, the government has said. Adapting to the world hit by the pandemic, the aviation industry - in the country and internationally - has faced many setbacks with new variants leading to the resurgence of Covid cases several times in the last two years. France, Germany, Italy, China, South Korea are among the countries that have been dealt a blow of fresh waves this month. India, however, has been witnessing a drop in cases after Omicron-driven third wave in January.
Here are ten points on this story:
1. From Sunday, all international flights will operate at 100 per cent capacity. The government had announced a ban on international flights in March 2020, which stretched for two years. A total of 60 foreign airlines of 40 countries have been given the approval to operate 1783 flights to and from India during Summer Schedule 2022, news agency ANI reported citing aviation regulator DGCA.
2. In new rules by the ministry of civil aviation, which were announced Saturday, cabin crew members are no longer needed to wear personal protective equipment (PPE) kits and security personnel at airports can resume pat-down search of passengers when needed.
3. Airlines will no longer be needed to keep three seats vacant for medical emergencies, the government has said.
4. "Airlines may carry a few additional PPE protective gears, sanitiser and N-95 masks, to handle any respiratory infections related to cases on air, for passengers as well as the crew," a statement read. The wearing of masks and use of sanitisers is still mandatory.
5. The government had restored all categories of tourist visas for foreign nationals and also issue fresh visas earlier this month. "Currently valid e-tourist visas issued for five years shall stand restored to nationals of 156 countries with immediate effect," an official statement said.
6. In July 2020, special international flights were started between India and other countries via an air bubble arrangement.
7. The latest move is expected to give a big boost to the hospitality industry and tourism industry - both the sectors have been hit hard by the pandemic.
8. The decision was said to be delayed due to Russia-Ukraine war, which began February 24. A special focus was laid on bringing back thousands of Indians from the war-hit country.
9. Earlier this month, union minister Jyotiraditya Scindia told parliament that the aviation industry was witnessing domestic air traffic close to pre-pademic levels. "So, we are very well on our way back to recovery, roughly about 5 to 6% off from pre-Covid levels. But then Omicron came along, and we had wave 3. And again, I am pleased to report to the House today that as of yesterday's numbers, after going down to almost about 160,000 passengers a day in wave 3 from the pre-Covid level of 400,000 and post Covid-2 level of 383,000, we reached the number of roughly about 380,000 passengers per day," he said.
10. The aviation industry has been facing huge losses due to high fuel rates, he underlined. "Fuel prices have gone up. I may just point out that in 2020, prior to Covid, aviation turbine fuel (ATF) was close to about ₹21,000 per kilo litre and today, it is ₹93,000 per kilo litre. So, fuel prices itself have gone up by close to 4.5 times. This is a very, very key issue for us," he had said.