India will keep scheduled international passenger flights suspended till January 31 next year, aviation regulator DGCA said on Thursday. Amid rising concerns over the coronavirus variant Omicron, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had on December 1 decided not to resume scheduled international flights from December 15, less than a week after announcing that it would restart the services.
The DGCA issued a circular on Thursday, saying, "The competent authority has decided to extend the suspension of scheduled international commercial passenger services to and from India till 2359 hours of January 31, 2022." This suspension won't apply to international all cargo operations and flights specifically approved by DGCA, it mentioned.
"International scheduled flights may be allowed on selected routes by the competent authority on case to case basis," the regulator added. In another tweet, it clarified that all international flights under the existing bubble agreements shall continue to operate till January 31.
Scheduled international passenger services have been suspended in India since March 23, 2020, due to the coronavirus pandemic. But special international flights have been operating under the Vande Bharat Mission since May 2020 and under bilateral "air bubble" arrangements with selected countries since July 2020.
India has formed air bubble pacts with around 32 countries including the US, the UK, the UAE, Kenya, Bhutan and France. Under an air bubble pact between two countries, special international flights can be operated by their airlines between their territories.
The DGCA had on November 26 announced that India will resume scheduled international passenger flights from December 15. Just a day later, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the Civil Aviation Ministry and the DGCA to review its decision in wake of the rising concerns of the COVID-19 variant Omicron.
Therefore, on December 1, the DGCA revoked its November 26 decision without saying how long will the suspension of scheduled international flights continue.