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Covid-19: Visas suspended, foreign airlines to cancel, cut flights to India | India News


NEW DELHI: Foreign airlines are likely to significantly reduce flights to India, through a combination of cancellations and frequency reductions on different routes, with India suspending most existing visas until April 15, 2020.

The visa suspension, which will take effect from 5:30 pm on Friday (March 13) at ports of departure abroad, exempts holders of diplomatic, official, UN / international visas, employment and project visas. The visa-free facility granted to Indian Foreign Citizen (OCI) cardholders remains on hold until April 15, 2020.

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Demand for travel outside India will also decline as the Ministry of Health, after a meeting of ministers on Wednesday to stem the spread of the coronavirus, called on Indians to avoid spurious travel abroad. The fear of being quarantined will impact as much as the suspension of the visa. “We are studying the impact of this order, but canceling some flights and reducing the frequency of a few seems the most likely course of action,” said an official with a major foreign airline.

India exceeds one million million foreign tourists in a year, and in 2018 there were 1.05 million million arrivals. The total number of international passengers to and from India in 2018, according to DGCA data, was Rs 6.3 million (2019 figures not yet included).

“A significant proportion of travelers to India are people of Indian origin (PIO) or OCI cardholders. The percentage of ‘true’ foreigners would be around 40%. That category will be affected, along with business travelers. Therefore, this order may not mean the emptying of Indian airports, but a reduction in flights by foreign airlines, “said an airline official.

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Ixigo co-founder Aloke Bajpai tweeted: “Sacrificing inbound tourism for a month is a small price to pay for avoiding a massive pandemic to set foot in India. Bold move from (government) in short-term pain but good long-term”.

A senior official at a major international airline said Wednesday afternoon: “Travel demand has decreased, but we are still operating flights because of the international rule that an airline can lose its airport spaces if it does not use 80 % from them”. Europe plans to amend this. India has also been asked to consider relaxing this rule. Once that happens, flight cancellations will increase. ”

After Wednesday night’s decision, he said that “force majeure” (events that happen due to circumstances beyond his control) could compel airlines to cancel flights and not use 80% of slot machines. “In such a situation, we would urge India not to take our slot machines from us if we cancel / reduce flights until the travel period affected by the visa suspension,” the official said.

Times of India