It was on March 25 when India suspended all commercial passenger flights as a nationwide lockdown came into force amid the coronavirus crisis. Later, when the country gradually moved towards "unlocking", domestic flights were thrown open from May 25. India also started the Vande Bharat Mission on May 6 to help stranded people reach their destinations through international repatriation flights on a payment basis. The million-dollar question still remains as to when will the international flights start again. Many have been waiting for a decision on the crucial aspect.
When will international flights resume? What we know so far
It was only recently when Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said that regular international flights will be started when India's domestic traffic reaches about 50-60 percent and other countries open up to international traffic without present conditionalities. "Once the situation evolves in that direction, we will consider a calibrated opening," he had said in a tweet.
In a press conference as well, Puri had said that resumption of the international flights would depend on other countries to be open to receive flights. "Any suggestion that international traffic has opened up and we are the only one not to open up needs reality check. The exact time when we will resume international flights depends on the other countries to be open to receive flights," he had said.
Further, the minister said in the absence of a decision on the resumption of international civil aviation, "we are left with no option but to continue what I call evacuation and repatriation flights under managed and controlled condition."
Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola too echoed similar concerns before the opening up of international flights. "Both ends have to be ready and there has to be traffic if international operations have to begin. "There is a significant amount of traffic between India and the North American continent. We may think of opening flights on a case to case basis," he had said.
Meanwhile, Virgin Atlantic today said it plans to restart flights on the London-Delhi and the London-Mumbai routes from September 2. "Virgin Atlantic has announced its plan to restart passenger flying to 17 additional destinations from August 2020...Flights from Delhi and Mumbai to London Heathrow start on the 2nd Sept 2020 and will provide connections to a range of US destinations," the airline said in a statement.