India likely to extend ban on flights from UK

India likely to extend ban on flights from UK

India last week suspended all flights from Britain until the end of the month

Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri. Credit: PTI Photo

India is likely to extend “slightly” the temporary suspension of flights from Britain imposed to contain the spread of the mutant strain of coronavirus prevalent there.

“I foresee a small extension to the temporary suspension,” Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri told reporters on a day when India detected the mutant strain of the coronavirus in six passengers who had returned from Britain.

Puri said the situation in South Africa and a few other countries that have reported the new strain of SARS-CoV-2 was being monitored carefully.

The minister said India had put in place a new protocol for handling passengers from Britain and other countries, including genome sequencing of positive cases to detect the new strain.

“We are getting a handle on it. Our systems are in place, we have managed contact tracing,” Puri said adding that the detection of the new strain of the virus had not affected domestic aviation.

The minister said the resumption of normal international passenger flights depended on the behaviour of the virus and the roll-out of the vaccine for Covid-19.

He said he expected normal international flights to be back to pre-Covid times in the first half of the new year.


Airport privatisation:

Meanwhile, Airports Authority of India (AAI) Chairman Arvind Singh told the press conference the government is planning to hold the next round of privatisation of airports in the first half of 2021.

"As far as the next round of airports' privatisation is concerned, we are at the final stages of obtaining government approvals. Once the approvals are received, I think we will start the process of bidding in the first quarter of 2021," he said.

The AAI had in September recommended the Centre now privatise airports at Amritsar, Varanasi, Bhubaneswar, Indore, Raipur and Trichy.

In the first round of airports’ privatisation under the Narendra Modi government, the Adani Group in February bagged contracts for six airports -- Lucknow, Ahmedabad, Jaipur, Mangaluru, Thiruvananthapuram, and Guwahati -- winning the bids by huge margins.

After signing the concession agreements for three airports -- Lucknow, Ahmedabad and Mangaluru -- the AAI handed them over to the Adani group earlier this year.

The concession agreements for the remaining three airports would be signed in the first half of next month, Singh said.

The AAI, which works under the Ministry of Civil Aviation, owns and manages more than 100 airports across the country.

Kozhikode Air Crash

The minister said an investigation into the Air India Express crash at Kozhikode on August 7 was under progress and was expected to be completed within the five-month timeline. He said the report was expected early next month.

Meanwhile, Airports Authority of India (AAI) Chairman Arvind Singh said bidding for the next round of privatisation of six airports would be held in the first half of 2021.

The concessionaire agreement for three airports – Thiruvananthapuram, Guwahati and Jaipur was expected to be signed next month. Adani Enterprises had won the bids to operate, modernise and manage the airports for a 50-years period.


(With inputs from PTI)