Normalisation of international flight services will depend on the Omicron scenario and authorities concerned will watch the situation as it unfolds, Union Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said on Tuesday.
On November 26, aviation regulator DGCA decided to restart scheduled commercial international flights to and from India from December 15. However, the decision was put on hold in less than a week in the wake of the emergence of Omicron, the new COVID variant. Last week, the watchdog said the flights will remain suspended till January 31.
Scheduled commercial international passenger flights remain suspended since March 23, 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic. Currently, the flights are being operated under bilateral air bubble arrangements with various countries in a restricted manner.
Speaking at a summit organised by industry body CII on Tuesday, Scindia said normalisation of international flights would depend on the Omicron situation. "Keeping in mind the health, we cannot dissociate ourselves from COVID. We are working closely with the health ministry. When we tide over Omicron, we can look at going back to normalcy even vis-a-vis international travel but I cannot give you the date today. "It is not incumbent on me, there are host of other factors, other ministries that I have to coordinate with and watch the situation as it unfolds over the next couple of weeks," he said.
Talking about the domestic air traffic, Scindia said today it is ranging between 3.7 to 3.9 lakh passengers per day. Pre-COVID, the highest was close to 4.2 lakh passengers per day. The domestic capacity was increased in a "very gradual and monitored process" and on October 18, the government allowed 100 per cent capacity for domestic airlines.
"Today, we are running 3.7 to 3.9 lakh passengers per day and on a seat load factor basis of 75-81 per cent, which is a very healthy seat load factor. Keeping that in mind, I was looking at opening up international travel but as you all are aware, just on the anvil of that the world got hit by Omicron," Scindia said.
Replying to a query, the minister said every country has different rules with regard to international travel right now and understandably so. "It depends on various countries' risk appetite and you cannot disagree with what each individual country determines its risk appetite is... that decision is best left to individual countries rather than for us to impose a world wide sort of rules...," he noted.
-With PTI Inputs