In the wake of continued speculation over the early resumption of scheduled international commercial flights, the Government of India has announced that the Covid-19-related travel and visa restrictions will be extended further.
The decision was announced in order by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) at a time when the travel and tourism industry was expecting no prolongation and hoped for regular flights beginning March 15.
Previously, reports stated that the government is considering lifting existing travel and visa restrictions and resuming scheduled international commercial flights to and from India. However, the travel and tourist industry will have to wait a bit longer, as a decision is expected in the first two weeks of March 2022.
According to the DGCA’s new circular, the existing limits would remain in effect until ‘additional directives’ are issued, rather than until the end of the month, as the authority has done when it initially imposed curbs.
Due to the prolongation of limitations, planned international commercial flights to and from India will no longer operate. Despite the limits, international air operations will continue to operate on the basis of the air bubble arrangement, and all existing cargo operations will continue as usual.
The restriction on frequent international flights has been a major blow for the industry, which is still reeling from the effects of Covid-19 and has reduced tourism-related activity. Without any international tourism business for the third consecutive tourism season, the country’s travel trade and industry would continue to suffer survival issues. The travel industry is also anticipating the reintroduction of e-tourist permits for key source markets such as the United Kingdom and Canada.
Industry organizations, including IATO, have been lobbying the government for this, as well as an extension of the validity of the initial five-lakh free visa for overseas tourists announced as part of the Finance Minister’s relief measures last year. It will expire on March 31, 2022.
However, due to mounting fears and hysteria around the new Covid-19 version Omicron, the government was forced to withdraw its order after making a statement on November 26 to postpone the move until further orders were received.
Previously, the administration declared limits on overseas travel and visa services until February 28. According to Ajay Prakash, President of the Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI), the travel industry is deeply unhappy by the government’s decision to cease scheduled international passenger flights “until further orders.”
Over the previous 23 months, the whole travel and tourism industry has been crippled; the government has failed to provide any meaningful help, despite the fact that hundreds of businesses have gone bankrupt, and lakhs of people have lost their jobs. Travellers are being harassed with exorbitant airfares due to a lack of inventory, but none of this appears to matter to the powers that be,” he stated.
“Scheduled flights were to resume from 15 December last year but two and a half months later we are still clued lesson when that might finally happen. The whole world is opening up and welcoming travellers. India has among the highest vaccination and lowest infection rates in the world. What are we waiting for? We strongly appeal to the Hon’ble PM to take an informed decision and to open the Indian skies to international traffic without any further delay,” he further added.
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