Domestic services were suspended in India due to the coronavirus-induced lockdown and resumed after a gap of two months on May 25. Scheduled international passenger flights continue to remain suspended in the country.
“Numerous citizens have been approaching us to restart international flights. Several factors need to be addressed. Many international destinations are not allowing incoming passenger traffic, except for their own citizens or diplomats,” Puri said on Twitter.
Within India, most international flights operate from the metro cities where travellers arrive from the neighbouring cities and states, he said.
“Our metro cities were under various degrees of lockdown which are beginning to be lifted. Some of them are still allowing only limited flights to operate,” the minister noted.
Airports in West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra, Telangana and Tamil Nadu have been allowed to handle a restricted number of daily flights as these states do not want a huge influx of flyers amid the rising number of COVID-19 cases.
The minister said: “MHA (ministry of home affairs) guidelines for lockdown 5.0 have further opened up inter & intra-state travel, and will facilitate calibrated reopening of the sector. As we move towards the critical mass of 50-60% operation of domestic flights, our ability to resume international operations will also improve.”
Indian carriers operated a total of 3,370 domestic passenger flights till May 31 — 428 on May 25, 445 on May 26, 460 on May 27, 494 on May 28, 513 on May 29 and 529 on May 30.
During the pre-lockdown period, Indian airports handled around 3,000 daily domestic flights, aviation industry sources said.
In February, around 4.12 lakh passengers travelled daily through domestic flights in India, according to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) data.