Combating coronavirus: India plans to resume international passenger flights before August
Dubai - The delay and uncertainty about flight resumption came as a big disappointment for thousands of NRIs in the Gulf and across the globe.
India said on Saturday, May 23, that it plans to resume international passenger flights before August or "as early as middle of June" if the situation improves and the "virus behaves in a predictable manner".
Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, addressing an online media session, said he was fully hopeful that before August or September, the government would try to start "a good percentage" of international civil aviation operations. "I can't put a date on it. But if somebody says can it be done by August or September, my response is why not earlier depending on the situation," the minister said, just three days after announcing the resumption of domestic flights from May 25 following two months stoppage.
The delay and uncertainty about flight resumption came as a big disappointment for thousands of NRIs in the Gulf and across the globe, who have been desperately waiting to return home by regular flights following the restart of domestic flights.
O.V. Mustafa, director, Norka Roots, an NRI welfare body of the Kerala government, said he was dismayed by "the hint of a delay".
"Either the number of evacuation flights from the Gulf must be significantly increased urgently to meet the unprecedented rush or the government should try to restart normal flights without any further delay."
Charles Paul, president of All-Kerala Colleges Alumni Forum, said the delay in starting normal flights is causing untold misery and distress to thousands of jobless and aged people who couldn't get a seat on evacuation flights. "The exorbitant one-way air fare is itself unjustified since for many of jobless expatriates it is not affordable."
"We have been hoping for a gradual resumption of scheduled flights by June first week. If the government is unduly delaying that, it can at least consider increasing the frequency of repatriation flights so that those in distress without jobs, proper food and medicine could be airlifted at the earliest," said C.U. Mathai, secretary-general of the World Malayalee Council.
On the pricing of ticket, the minister said it is a commercial matter between airline and the consumer and the government's role was limited to issuing advisories. He added that airlines have to carry on with "minimum economic viability".
The minister also clarified that the "Aarogya Setu app" is not mandatory for air passengers and they can instead give a self-declaration form. "In case a passenger does not have the app, he or she can get tested for the virus two or three days before the flight's departure, get that medical certificate, and just fill in the form that he or she is Covid-negative," he said.
Puri said the Vande Bharat Mission, which was launched on May 7, would be able to bring home a total 50,000 Indians who have been stranded abroad by the end of May. Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express have repatriated around 23,000 Indians between May 7 and May 2 by evacuation flights.