DGCA, the nodal agency for Civil Aviation in India recently issued a notification extending the ban on scheduled commercial international flights till July 31. While the ban was earlier supposed to be till July 15 as per the MHA guidelines for Unlock 2.0, it was extended within a few days of the notification.

On the other hand, the Vande Bharat Mission, which is the largest of its kind repatriation mission undertaken by any country, is in its fourth stage now and will end on July 31 as well. This indicates there are two possibilities that can take a shape in August - either the VBM will be extended for the fifth phase or government will open the skies for schedule international flights, but with capacity constraint, following the domestic flights model.

Back on May 25, when government restarted the scheduled domestic flights, they reduced the flight capacity to one-third of the original schedule of air carriers. The same model can be applied in the international flights too. Not only this, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri had on June 20 said the government will start thinking on the resumption of scheduled international passenger flights in mid-July when it expects the domestic air traffic to reach 50-55 per cent of the levels before the coronavirus.

While mid-July is out of equation, a recent order issued by the ministry stated that, "One Third (1/3) capacity may be read as 45 per cent capacity." This means domestic flights are already using 45 percent of their capacity and leading experts and airline management is assuming that by July end, the capacity can be increased to 60 percent.

This has reignited the theory that DGCA and MoCA might announce commencement of scheduled international flights as early as August first week. Currently the international flights are banned from operating in India as government announced lockdown starting March 23, 2020.

Additionally, India is in chats with the US and Canada and the nations in European and Gulf areas on building up individual respective air pockets which will permit aircrafts of every nation in the agreement to work worldwide flights, said Arvind Singh, Chairman, Airports Authority of India (AAI). 

The Ministry of Civil Aviation (MOCA) had on June 23 said India is thinking about setting up "individual reciprocal air pockets" with the US, the UK, Germany and France. Singh stated, "toward the beginning of today, I took a brief from the key go-to person (from the MOCA) who is haggling with the nations, and he said that we are in steady touch. We are taking a shot at an accord to restart the universal flights. This will be through air bubbles." 

"Talks are chiefly going on among India and the US, India and Canada, India and Europe and India and the Gulf nations to begin trips in these air pockets," he said at an online course called "Resting the confidence in flying" sorted out by the GMR gathering.

This also means that rather than opening the air services to all countries, government will start the international flights in a calibrated manner and only with countries they have bilateral agreement. Govt might infact carry on the Vande Bharat Mission with non-partner countries to repatriate international passengers.
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