Dubai: A growing number of countries are blocking flights from India as the country continues to report a record number of daily infections, hit hard by the second wave of the COVID-19 virus.
Most recently, Kuwait's directorate general of civil aviation said it had suspended all direct commercial flights coming from India, effective April 24 and until further notice. Prior to that, UAE announced the suspension of all inbound flights for national and international carriers coming from India for a period of 10 days that can be extended.
While countries such as United Kingdom, Canada, Hong Kong, New Zealand, UAE, Indonesia, Kuwait and Australia have banned flights from India. France has imposed mandatory quarantine for Indian passengers and the United States’ Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has advised against travel to India.
Daily cases in India have gone past the 300,000 mark and industry experts are doubtful that the flight bans will be lifted soon.
All you need to know to know about the flight ban, restrictions:
1) Australia: Prime Minister Scott Morrison said flights from India will be scaled back by 30 per cent. He said India was now a “high risk” country and only those with the most urgent needs would be allowed to travel to and from India.
2) Canada: Canada on Thursday said it was banning all flights from India and Pakistan for 30 days due to the growing wave of COVID-19 cases in that region. The ban took effect on Friday.
3) UK: India was added to UK's travel red list on April 23rd, effectively banning travel. UK’s Health Secretary Matt Hancock Hancock said reason for this was the new ‘double-mutant’ strain of virus found in the country dubbed the ‘Indian variant." British and Irish nationals can travel to the UK from India, but they must now isolate in a government-approved hotel.
4) Hong Kong: On Tuesday last week, Hong Kong suspended all flights from India till May 3. The country has also suspended flights to and from Pakistan and the Philippines and made it mandatory for passengers to have a COVID-negative RTPCR result with them from a test done 72 hours before the journey.
5) US: US has issued a travel advisory for its people travelling to and from India. The body has asked citizens to avoid travelling to India. However, it has said that if anyone has to travel to India then he or she must get fully vaccinated.
6) Saudi Arabia: Saudi Arabia said that a halt to international flights will be lifted as of May 17, but will not apply to the countries with which travel is banned by a state committee tasked with tackling COVID-19 due to the outbreak of the virus, local media reported. The 20 countries on the ban list are Argentina, the UAE, France, Germany, the US, Indonesia, India, Japan, Ireland, Italy, Pakistan, Brazil, Portugal, the UK, Turkey, South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Lebanon, and Egypt.
UAE ban may stay
“In short, the near collapse of India’s ability to deal with the COVID fallout almost certainly means that this temporary UAE ban will be extended if things do not improve,” said Saj Ahmad, chief analyst, StrategicAero Research.com.
“Further, it hampers the movement of labour between the UAE and India and further limits travellers from India using the UAE to transit to Africa, Europe and the USA,” he added.
Airlines will be hit
The loss of access to major markets such as UAE and UK will hit India’s airlines who had been relying on bubble agreements formed with those countries to ensure uninterrupted operations.
“For Indian airlines, the UAE is a cash-rich market for them and any flight restrictions will simply batter them financially and add to the woes that the pandemic has already levelled at them,” said Ahmad.
“Coupled with the UK ban and India’s daily COVID cases and death rates spiraling out of control, it’s hard to see this ban being lifted in just ten days,” Ahmad added.
The new wave of flight restrictions and suspensions is going to hurt UAE’s airlines too.
“The UK government's recent consideration to potentially keep the UAE and India on the red list could become another additional blow to the UAE carriers during these challenging times,” said Linus Benjamin Bauer, Founder and Managing Director of Bauer Aviation Advisory.
“Markets like the UK and India are few of the largest key markets for the UAE carriers,” he added.
Gulf airlines were expected to be among the first in the region to recover thanks to rapid vaccination rates in their home markets. That will not be the case any longer.
“They will be hampered by continued travel restrictions on many of the routes to emerging economies that are served through Gulf hub connections,” said the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in a recent report.