India Extends UK Flight Restrictions Until Mid-February
by kamran saeed
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India has extended UK flight restrictions for another two weeks, only allowing 30 weekly flights between the countries. As the new strain continues to fuel a rise in cases in the UK and India reports over 160 cases of the strain, the continued restrictions come as no surprise.
Flights between the two countries resumed in early January after a two-week suspension. Extended India’s aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), has confirmed the extension of restrictions on UK flights. According to the Times of India, the rules will remain in place until at least February 14th. However, passengers can expect restrictions to remain in place after that too, considering the virus’s rapid spread.
Under the new rules, in effect since January 6th, the number of weekly flights between the countries has been cut from 60 to 30. Both Indian and British carriers can fly 15 flights every week to the four main hubs (Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Hyderabad).
This has meant a significant reduction in flight schedules for all airlines, especially Air India and British Airways. Air India notably operated flights from London to nine Indian cities, including Goa, Ahmedabad, and more. Quarantine The new rules also include strict quarantine protocols for those flying to India. Passengers must undergo an RT-PCR test upon arrival (in addition to carrying one before travel).
If they test negative on arrival, some states mandate a 14-day home quarantine, while others like Delhi and Mumbai require a seven-day hotel quarantine (with another seven days at home). The mandatory tests at the airports can take hours to return results, which means passengers must wait upwards of four to six hours. However, India has managed to quarantine several positive passengers using this testing method, making it essential. All positive passengers are moved to an appropriate medical facility.
In total, India has detected over 160 cases of the new strain of COVID-19 at airports and in cities, a growing number. This means restrictions will likely continue for months until a vaccine roll out picks up pace. However, recent news of most vaccines working effectively against the UK strain of the virus has eased some tensions.
Airlines struggling The new strain has heavily impacted traffic on routes to and from the UK, usually one of the busiest. British Airways has been forced to scale back its 29 weekly services to under a dozen, while Vistara has reduced its two recently-started routes. The strain has also resulted in more general travel restrictions in India, impacting overall international flights. Data from AirNav Radar Box shows that international flights have only recovered to just over 40% compared to January 2020. Until a vaccine becomes freely available, which takes months, we can expect traffic to remain far lower than 2019 levels.
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