India will finally allow scheduled international flights to resume from March 27—two years after they were suspended following the Covid outbreak.
While expensive ‘air bubble’ arrangements ensured connectivity during this period, regular flight resumption was awaited for two reasons—more connectivity and choices, leading to lower fares as well. The Ukraine conflict will, however, cast its shadow on these expectations.
Top travel industry officials say regular flight fares will be much lower than exorbitant bubble charges, but they are unlikely to be close to their pre-pandemic levels as crude is now trading above $130-mark and rupee has weakened below 77-mark to the US dollar. Jet fuel prices globally are at a 14-year high.
Also, some foreign airlines are not overflying Russian airspace due to which they have to take longer routes. Some have dropped unviable routes like United suspending Delhi-San Francisco and Mumbai-Newark.
Air bubble pacts with 37 countries, including major destinations for desi travellers and diaspora like North America, UK, UAE and Germany, kept India connected with the world during Covid through expensive options with strict restrictions. Resumption of regular flights will mean people can again freely
choose the most affordable connection, like a one-stop via nearby hubs abroad as they used to do pre-Covid. The Gulf accounted for over a third of all travel to and from India due to high transit traffic on big airlines there. Or, they can opt for nonstops that charge more for the convenience they offer. “After deliberation with stakeholders and keeping in view a decline in Covid cases, we have decided to resume international travel from March 27 (start of summer schedule). Air Bubble arrangements will also be revoked thereafter,” aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia tweeted Tuesday. India suspended regular international flights on March 23, 2020. The plan to resume on December 25, 2021 was shelved due to Omicron.
Both Indian and foreign airlines have begun preparations to add flights. Lufthansa Group currently has 22 weekly flights on Swiss and LH between Frankfurt, Munich and Zurich, and Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru. It will raise the number of weekly flights to 28 next month; 33 in May when Chennai will be
back on the network; 39 in June and 42 by October, said an official.
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