New Delhi/ Mumbai:
After a delay due to the coronavirus pandemic for more than two years, regular international flights will resume starting Sunday with airports and airlines preparing for normal operations overseas.
Hit by the outbreak, the airline industry is slowly returning to normal and the resumption of normal overseas flights is expected to add to the sector.
The capital’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA), which is also the country’s largest airport, expects international flight departures to see a significant surge in the first week of April after the resumption of normal international operations.
While Indian airlines are ready for regular international services, various foreign airlines, including Emirates, Virgin Atlantic and LOT Poland have also announced plans on their services to and from India.
A total of 60 airlines from 40 countries have been allowed to operate 1,783 frequencies to/from India during the summer schedule, according to the DGCA. The summer schedule will be in effect from March 27 to October 29.
A total of 1,466 international departures per week have been approved for six Indian airlines for the summer schedule. They will operate to 43 destinations in 27 countries, according to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
Scheduled international passenger flights have remained suspended since March 23, 2020 following the outbreak and will now resume starting Sunday.
Overseas flights are now operated under bilateral air bubble arrangements with various countries.
On March 8, the civil aviation ministry announced that regular flights abroad would resume starting March 27 amid a drop in coronavirus cases.
The government has also revised COVID guidelines for international flight operations, including eliminating the requirement to ensure three empty seats on overseas flights for medical emergencies.
In addition, the need for crews to have a complete PPE kit has been eliminated.
In a statement on Saturday, IndiGo Chief Commercial Officer Willy Boulter said the airline was keen to resume international operations to pre-COVID levels but that also depended on factors such as multi-country arrival guidelines.
“We certainly have plans to open new destinations in the near future as well as increase capacity on our existing routes as travel becomes more open. Achieving economies of scale in a dynamic environment where ATF and other fixed costs are constantly rising, becomes challenging,” he said.
IndiGo is the largest airline in the country.
On Friday, a DIAL spokesman said, “After the resumption of commercial operations, Southeast Asia and Europe are expected to be the main drivers of further international passenger growth”.
DIAL, the operator of IGIA, expects to be able to connect to more than 60 international destinations after regular overseas flights are resumed.
IGIA is the largest airport in the country and handled about 1.8 lakh passengers per day during pre-COVID time.
The spokesman also said the number of international Air Traffic Movements (ATMs) may increase from 165 a day to 300 a day in the summer of 2022.
Total weekly international flight departures are expected to increase 66 percent in the first week of April once regular overseas flights begin, according to the spokesperson.
This is compared to flights operating under a two -way air bubble arrangement during the 2021 winter.
On Friday, the Emirates Gulf airline said it would reintroduce pre-pandemic service frequencies across its destinations in the country starting April 1.
Prior to the end of March 2020, when scheduled international services were stopped by India, Emirates operated 170 weekly flights to nine destinations, including Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata.
All of these flights are being restored now, starting April 1, according to the airline.
These 170 weekly flights include 35 services to Mumbai, 28 to Delhi, 24 to Bengaluru, 21 each to Chennai and Hyderabad, 14 to Kochi, 11 to Kolkata, nine to Ahmedabad and seven to Thiruvananthapuram.
Sri Lanka Airlines, on Friday, said it would start operating up to 88 weeks of flights to India to match the pre-COVID flight schedule. The airline flies to nine cities, including Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Chennai and Bangalore.
British airline Virgin Atlantic will start its second daily service between Delhi and London from June 1. Coupled with its services from Mumbai, Virgin Atlantic will offer three daily flights from India, he said on Friday.
“American Airlines is proud to serve India with daily services between New York (JFK) and New Delhi (DEL). As India continues to fly international flights, we look forward to expanding our presence in the country as we deepen our partnership with IndiGo and plans to launch new services between Seattle (SEA) and Bangalore (BLR) later this year, “said Rhett Workman, Managing Director – Europe, Middle East and Asia Operations at American Airlines, in a statement on Friday.
Poland -based LOT Polish Airlines, on Thursday, said it would start flights to Mumbai from May 31 and resume services to Delhi from March 29.
Speaking on the resumption of normal international flights, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia, on March 8, said, “with this move, I am confident the sector will reach a new level”.