Will decide in July on intl flights' resumption: Puri

Will decide in July on international flights' resumption if states, aviation ecosystem onboard: Hardeep Singh Puri

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India will take a decision on resumption of international passenger flights in July if coronavirus behaves in a “predictable manner” and the entire aviation ecosystem and state governments are onboard, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri said on Tuesday.

The country resumed domestic passenger flights from May 25 after a gap of two months amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Scheduled international passenger flights, however, continue to remain suspended in India.

"I am often asked, when can you start international civil aviation? If you leave it to me, and if the ecosystem works, and if we have the predictability in terms of behaviour of the virus, I think in the coming month we should start taking the decision. But those decisions will not be taken by the Indian civil aviation ministry," Puri said.

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“Those decisions will be taken by the governments after looking at their domestic situation,” he said at a webinar titled ‘Reposing the Faith in Flying’ organised by the GMR group.

"As we have seen recently that there is a major state in south India, after we opened up, they ordered the lockdown back. I have seen this happening in other countries. We are trying to ensure that this does not happen," the minister noted.

The Tamil Nadu government had recently decided to impose lockdown in the capital city of Chennai, starting June 19 for a period of 12 days, in view of rising number of COVD-19 cases.

Puri said the central government is trying to make sure that "when we take steps, they are incremental, and they are predictable, and that we increase the ways of travel domestically and that we move in the direction of opening international travel systematically without endangering and inviting a backlash".

"For us to be able to receive passengers on international routes, our states must be ready. We are in a constant dialogue with them," he added.

The aviation minister said a decision regarding resumption of international travel can be taken in the coming months, even earlier, when domestic air traffic would reach 50-55 per cent of its pre-COVID-19 capacity, and other states would be in the position to absorb more number of passengers coming in.

"In any case, it is not our call. It is a call where all the stakeholders, including the passengers and the entire ecosystem, are ready," he added.