Regular international passenger flights to and from India will resume from March 27, the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation said on Tuesday. The decision means that regular international flights will resume after more than two years.

India had suspended all scheduled international flights on March 23, 2020, ahead of a nationwide lockdown imposed to curb the spread of Covid-19. Over the last two years, India had set up air bubble agreements with 37 countries. Under a bilateral air bubble agreement, both countries can operate flights to each other’s territories with some restrictions.

The civil aviation ministry on Tuesday said that it took the decision “after having recognised the increased vaccination coverage across the globe” and consultation with various stakeholders on the matter.

“The suspension of scheduled commercial international passenger services to/from India, thus, stands extended only upto 2359 hrs IST on 26.03.2022 and air bubble arrangements shall accordingly be extended to this extent only,” a press release from the Union government said.

The civil aviation ministry said that international flights will be allowed to operate subject to the Union health ministry’s guidelines for international travel.

Air travel curbs during the pandemic

Since June 2020, the Union government allowed limited operations of Air India flights under the “Vande Bharat” mission for certain categories like Overseas Citizenship of India, Persons of Indian Origin card-holders and other Indians who have been stuck abroad due to the pandemic.

Subsequently, restrictions were eased in a phased manner as India entered into air bubble agreements with several countries.

The Centre, however, extended the ban on commercial international passenger flights from time to time. The last such extension was announced on January 19, and the order was in force till February 28.

On November 26, the civil aviation regulator had decided to resume scheduled commercial international passenger flights from December 15. However, the decision was rolled back following the emergence of the Omicron variant of coronavirus.

Covid-19 cases in India have registered a declining trend in India in the past month. The country on Tuesday recorded 3,993 new coronavirus cases.