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IATA urges Centre to reopen international air routes


Global airline body IATA on Monday urged the Centre for “swift normalisation” of international flight operations and called for discontinuation of air travel bubbles.

The plea came on a day when the health ministry’s revised guidelines for international travellers kicked in, allowing passengers quarantine-free entry into the country besides dispensing with the need for on-arrival RT-PCR tests.

“IATA (International Air Transport Association) welcomes the opening of India to international travel without quarantine from today. We urge that this development be followed swiftly by the normalisation of scheduled international flights to and from India, and the discontinuation of India’s air travel bubbles,” said Philip Goh, IATA’s regional VP for Asia Pacific. “The resumption of scheduled flights was paused due to the Omicron variant wave and it is now time to move forward and normalise international air services,” he added.

India banned international flights almost two years ago on March 22, 2020. The Centre subsequently unveiled the Vande Bharat mission for Indians stranded across the world and started gradually permitting a limited number of commercial flights by entering into a bilateral “air bubble” arrangement with some countries. Today, it has this tie-up with 35 countries.

The air bubble system had come under criticism from international airlines and IATA as well. In November last, IATA DG Willie Walsh said during a press briefing that COVID-19 gave India a ruse to revise bilateral air service agreements unilaterally.

On Monday, IATA appealed that India follow the example of other countries in the Asia Pacific region such as Thailand, Philippines, and Australia to ease travel restrictions and reopen international flights.

“It is time to follow what the science is telling us about the disease, its transmission, and that extreme border measures are no longer effective in keeping the virus out,” Goh said.