The government is unlikely to lift the restrictions on international flights immediately, a senior civil aviation ministry official has indicated, saying current frequencies under air bubble arrangements are adequate to meet the demand.
Scheduled international passenger flights to and from India remain suspended since March last year amid the coronavirus pandemic. India has air bubble arrangements with more than 25 countries for operating international flights.
Civil Aviation Secretary Rajiv Bansal told PTI that the current frequencies available under the air bubble arrangements are adequate to meet the demand and there is not much demand for international routes as the visa regime is very restrictive.
He also noted that in certain sectors such as US and Canada, airlines have 30 to 40 percent load factors for mid-December 2021. "We can surely consider opening once demand nears pre-COVID levels."
Speaking on the sidelines after the inauguration of the Kushinagar international airport in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday, Bansal also said that if there is a need, then air bubble arrangements can be expanded.
Under an air bubble arrangement between two countries, international passenger flights can be operated by their respective carriers into each other's territories subject to certain conditions.
Currently, India has air bubble arrangements with 28 countries, including the US, the UK, Germany and Japan. To a query on when fare bands are likely to be removed, Bansal said a call would be taken "once demand returns to pre-COVID levels". Domestic air services resumed after two months on May 25, 2020.