Air links with the UAE maybe resumed, says Indian aviation minister

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India’s Civil Aviation Ministry offered cautious optimism that passenger air connections with the UAE may be resumed soon after India’s three-week lockdown prompted by the global COVID-19 outbreak ends on April 14, according to Emirates News Agency (WAM).

“Any incoming flights to bring Indians back home will have to await the lifting of the lockdown,” Hardeep Singh Puri, the Minister for Civil Aviation, told reporters on Thursday.

“The lockdown is till April 15. And, we can start considering the resumption of flights on a case-by-case basis depending on where they are coming from after that,” Puri said.

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India banned all scheduled international commercial passenger aircraft from landing in India effective March 22 without any timeline. Puri’s statement is the first indication that international air traffic will be resumed when the current lockdown ends.

The cut off in civil aviation links between India and the outside world came into effect two days before the domestic lockdown and was prompted by concern that international passenger arrivals were fueling the spread of Coronavirus.

Meanwhile in the UAE, Emirates airlines and Etihad Airways will be operating limited flights carrying passengers outbound from the UAE for residents and visitors to be able to go back to their home countries.

The UAE has also extended the suspension of entry of all valid visa holders who are outside the country for two additional weeks starting Thursday April 2, as part of the country’s efforts to combat the spread of the coronavirus.

Air India’s Chairman Rajiv Bansal said the airline will shortly operate 18 flights to evacuate foreign nationals stuck in India because of disruptions in international air traffic.

Several GCC citizens are also stuck in India and the evacuation flights by Air India and other Gulf airlines will see their return home in the next few days.

“These flights out of India will be carrying their citizens. On the way back to India, the aircraft will not have any cargo or any passenger,” Bansal said.

Some Gulf airlines are continuing to operate cargo flights to India and back during the lockdown.

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