After almost two long years of suspensions, India finally will allow scheduled international flights to resume from March 27, 2022.
While airlines were operating under the expensive “air bubble” arrangements with 37 key destination countries ensuring global connectivity during this period, the resumption of the scheduled international regular flights was awaited as it grants more connectivity and leads to lower fares.
However, the clouds from the Ukraine-Russia war will hover over the sector.
As per industry officials, while the fares for the regular flight will be much lower than the exorbitant fares under the bubble charges, it is unlikely that it will come close to the pre-pandemic levels-owing to the high crude oil prices which are now touching the $140-mark and the rupee has crashed below 77 marks to the US dollar.
Owing to the Russia-Ukraine war, many foreign airlines are also not overflying Russian airspace due to which they have to take longer routes — like Delhi-London on British Airways and Delhi-New York on United. Or have dropped routes like United suspending Delhi-San Francisco and Mumbai-Newark as taking longer routes on ultralong/long hauls when fuel is so expensive becomes unviable.
Union aviation minister J M Scindia Tweeted Tuesday: “After deliberation with stakeholders and keeping in view decline in Covid cases, we have decided to resume international travel from March 27 (start of summer schedule). Air Bubble arrangements will also stand revoked thereafter.”
The aviation ministry says “international operations shall be subject to strict adherence to (current) health ministry guidelines.” India had suspended regular international flights on March 23, 2020. The plan to resume them on December 25, 2021, had to be shelved due to Omicron.
Both Indian and foreign airlines have begun preparations to add flights. Lufthansa (LH) Group currently has 22 weekly flights on Swiss and LH between Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich, Delhi, Mumbai, and Bengaluru. It will raise the number of weekly flights to 28 next month; 33 in May when Chennai will be back on the network; 39 in June and 42 by October, said an official.
Air bubble pacts with major destinations for desi travelers and the diaspora like North America, UK, UAE, and Germany kept India connected with the world during Covid through expensive options with strict restrictions on who can fly which airline up to where.
The resumption of these regular flights will mean people can again freely choose the most affordable connection, like a one-stop via nearby hubs abroad as they used to do pre-Covid.
On top of it, the air Cargo industry will also benefit from the resumption of scheduled international flights and steer faster towards revival, as they regain the capacity of belly cargo which is responsible for half of all air freight.