Don’t roll back resumption of international flights: Travel industry execs

Enhance testing and strengthen Covid-19 protocols but do not put on hold resumption of scheduled international flights, travel industry veterans said on Saturday.

They were reacting to Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s call for a review of plans to ease travel restrictions in the wake of the new Covid-19 variant ‘Omicron’. The Prime Minister chaired a comprehensive high level meeting on Saturday to review the Covid-19 situation in the country.

An official release from the government said that the PM asked officials to review plans for easing of international travel restrictions in the light of emerging new evidence.

Officials from the civil aviation and health ministries did not immediately respond whether this would result in suspension of the Friday order on resumption of scheduled international flights or ban on passenger movement from certain countries or quarantine measures for arrivals.

The civil aviation ministry has allowed resumption of scheduled international flights from December 15.

Airlines need to assess availability of aircraft and airport slots besides assessing viability of routes. Increasing frequency at an existing destination again is easier than opening a new destination or restarting a route after months of suspension. “We just received the order last evening. A decision on new flights would take a few days,” a senior executive of a private airline quipped when asked if plans were being reworked.

The travel industry however does not support continued suspension of scheduled international flights. “It will send a wrong signal. Of course public health is important and we need to remain vigilant. The government can impose travel restrictions on countries impacted by the new variant of Covid-19 but should not stop scheduled international flights,” said Rajiv Mehra, president of Indian Association of Tour Operators.

“We have to learn to live with Covid-19. It will not go away easily. But stopping all international passenger flights is not the solution. The government can enhance Covid-19 protocols and ban passenger movements from South Africa or affected countries but should not roll back the decision on resuming scheduled international flights,” added Subhash Goyal, chairman of Stic Travel group.

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