International flights not to resume fully

The tourism and travel industry had expected that the Government could reopen international flights.   | Photo Credit: VELANKANNI RAJ B

The Government is unlikely to allow full resumption of international flights in the near future as it believes that demand for foreign travel is still tepid, according to a senior official of the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

The clarity comes at a time it is widely believed in the tourism and travel industry that the Government could reopen international flights fully after it announced free tourist visas to those arriving on chartered planes from October 15 and on non-chartered planes from November 15.

“The current frequencies available under the bubble arrangements are adequate to meet the demand. There isn’t much demand for international routes, as the visa regime is very restrictive. On certain sectors such as the U.S. and Canada, airlines have 30% to 40% load factors [seat occupancy] for mid-December 2021. We can surely consider opening once the demand nears the pre-COVID-19 levels,” Rajiv Bansal, Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, told The Hindu.

Also Read: India opens to foreign tourists; too late, says travel industry

International flights were banned on March 23 last year. India allows only direct flights to and from 28 countries with which it has an “air bubble” arrangement.

Expansion of air bubbles

When asked whether the Government would look at expanding air bubbles to other countries, and allowing more number of flights to and from those with whom it had “air bubble” arrangements in order to attract tourists, he said, “yes, if there is a need, we can do that.”

Despite the optimism in the market and the revival in domestic travel -- passenger demand was at 60% of the pre-COVID-19 levels last month and on certain days in October it has been at 75% of pre-COVID-19-- the Government is also unlikely to remove fare bands. “We will take a call, once the demand returns to the pre-COVID-19 levels,” stated Mr. Bansal, who is also in charge of Air India as its Chairman and Managing Director.

In his first comments on privatisation of Air India, he observed, “"disinvestment of Air India will lead to further growth of the airline in a professional manner as it will allow an upgrade of services such as in-flight catering, seats, onboard wi-fi connectivity.” Investment on maintenance of aircraft would ensure better utilisation, resulting in more flights to destinations in the U,S., Canada and Europe, he noted.

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Printable version | Dec 7, 2021 3:57:40 PM |

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