The suspension of passenger services from overseas destinations was first imposed in March.
Given the accelerating numbers of coronavirus cases both at home and abroad, India has once again pushed back its plans to reopen airports to international flights. New Delhi had hoped to lift restrictions on inbound flights by the end of July—after delaying its removal by two weeks—but the country’s aviation regulator has since announced that the ban will remain in force for another month.
In a statement published last Friday, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) said, “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 prohibition does not apply to special charter services that have been approved by the DGCA. So far, India has signed “air bubble” agreements with the United States, France, Germany, the UK, and the UAE to operate limited commercial flights and ferry stranded travelers back to their home countries. The Indian government granted United Airlines permission to fly from Newark to Delhi and Mumbai over the past two weeks, while Air France offered a reduced service from Paris to Delhi, Mumbai, and Bangalore in the same period. Meanwhile, British Airways has opened bookings for flights between London and Delhi starting on August 19.
Though the name “air bubbles” might suggest otherwise, the policy does not give travelers the opportunity to bypass mandatory quarantine requirements. For example, Indian citizens returning to Delhi from abroad must face a weeklong quarantine at a designated facility, followed by another seven days of self-isolation at home.
India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation is also eyeing bilateral travel arrangements with Canada and Hong Kong. But while Air India has already applied to resume regular services to the latter, Hong Kong authorities are not allowing any passenger flights from India given the scale of its domestic coronavirus outbreak. India currently has the third-highest caseload of any country in the world, with more than 1,695,000 confirmed Covid-19 infections and at least 36,500 related deaths (overtaking Italy) as of August 3.