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Amid ongoing coronavirus pandemic, Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Friday extended the suspension on scheduled international passenger flights till 30 November, 2021.

However, the restriction shall not apply to international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by DGCA, a circular added.

Also, international scheduled flights may be allowed on selected routes by the competent authority on case to case basis, the Indian regulatory body said.

"In partial modification of circular dated 26-06-2020, the competent authority has further extended the validity of circular issued on the subject cited above regarding Scheduled International commercial passenger services to/from India till 2359 hrs IST of 31st October, 2021. This restriction shall not apply to international all-cargo operations and flights specifically approved by DGCA," the notice read.

India has formed air-bubble pacts with around 28 countries, including the US, the UK, the UAE, Kenya, Bhutan and France. Under an air-bubble pact between two countries, special international flights can be operated by their airlines between their territories with specific restrictions.

Recently, a report suggested that the Indian government is unlikely to lift the restrictions on international flights immediately.

Scheduled international passenger flights to and from India remain suspended since March last year amid the coronavirus pandemic. Currently, the suspension on scheduled international flights is till October 31 and the government is most likely to extend the date, it had added.

Civil Aviation Secretary Rajiv Bansal told PTI that the current frequencies available under the air bubble arrangements are adequate to meet the demand and there is not much demand for international routes as the visa regime is very restrictive.

He also noted that on certain sectors such as US and Canada, airlines have 30 to 40% load factors for mid-December 2021. "We can surely consider opening once demand nears pre-Covid levels."

Speaking on the sidelines after the inauguration of the Kushinagar international airport in Uttar Pradesh on Wednesday, Bansal also said that if there is a need, then air bubble arrangements can be expanded.

To a query by PTI on when fare bands are likely to be removed, Bansal said a call would be taken "once demand returns to pre-Covid levels".

On the domestic front, Domestic air passenger traffic saw a 5.45% growth last month with the easing of lockdown curbs following the decline in Covid cases that gave confidence to more people to travel by air.

Around 7.07 million passengers took to the skies in September, compared to 6.7 million in August, according to data from the DGCA.

With inputs from PTI

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