In a much-needed relief for airlines, scheduled international flight services are set to resume from March 27 after a two-year gap.
The scheduled international flight services have remained suspended in India since March 23, 2020, in view of the Covid-19 pandemic.
However, special international flights have been operating between India and about 35 other countries since July 2020 under air bubble arrangements.
The international flights were to resume in December last year but the spread of the Omicron variant of Covid-19 stalled the process. The flight operations were to start from March 15 but the Russia-Ukraine delayed the process.
The move is also likely to bring relief for passengers as airfares may come down.
For airlines, it’s a much needed relief they will also be able to improve their revenue earned per seat as fares are higher on international sectors compared to domestic routes.
The airlines and airports in India incurred an estimated loss of Rs 19,564 crore and Rs 5,116 crore, respectively, in 2020-21 due to disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic, Minister of State for Civil Aviation V K Singh had informed Rajya Sabha in December last year.
The pandemic had brought the aviation sector to a standstill which led to salary cuts and job losses as well.
Around 7,900 employees in India's aviation sector have lost jobs due to the pandemic in the last one year, Singh informed the Parliament.
"Total number of employees of domestic carriers has declined from around 74,800 as on 31 Mar 2020 to around 66,900 as on 31 Mar 2021, a decline of over 7,900 employees," he said.
The aviation sector was severely hit due to the pandemic the challenges for the airlines were aplenty.
The resumption of international services will bring some relief although it comes on the backdrop of rising oil, falling rupee and Russia-Ukraine war.
The Indian aviation industry was able to breathe a little easier in 2021 as domestic flight operations reached their pre-pandemic levels even though international services continued to remain curtailed due to Covid-related travel restrictions.
Airlines in India have urged the civil aviation ministry to increase caps on domestic fares, given the sharp rise in prices of aviation turbine fuel over the past two months and expectations that crude oil prices are expected to remain high due to the Russia-Ukraine conflict.
The price of oil has surged to its highest level since 2008 after Russia's invasion of Ukraine, adding to airline costs at a time when carriers have been struggling to recover from a pandemic-related dip in demand.
Amid all this, IndiGo brought cheer to the aviation industry after posting a profit in the three-month period ended 31 December 2021 after seven successive quarters of losses
The resumption of scheduled international flight services will be a breather for the airlines and the aviation sector as it looks to bounce back.
The Indian aviation sector has started to rebound with accelerated pace of Covid-19 vaccine roll-out and easing of travel restrictions globally, stated the Economic Survey released in January this year.
Lauding the announcement, Ronojoy Dutta, whole-time director & CEO at the country's largest airline IndiGo, said, "This step will provide impetus to the economic recovery for the sector and the nation, with borders opening for tourists. We look forward to connecting our customers to the people and places they love. We will soon be announcing the schedule for our international destinations, in accordance with these new guidelines."