MIAMI – Numerous countries, including Canada, have banned flights from India amid a surge of COVID-19 cases, complicating an already tenuous recovery for international air travel.
With fears that travelers may carry the infection — particularly the B.1.617 variant, some countries have imposed outright bans while France has imposed mandatory quarantine for Indian passengers and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has advised against travel to India. At least one U.S. carrier, United Airlines, has already canceled Indian itineraries.
India on April 23 reported 332,730 cases of the virus over the past 24 hours, the second consecutive day that new cases topped that threshold. News reports say many international flights out of India have at least one infected passenger.
The rise in infections has increased India’s death toll 186,920, with a record 2,263 fatalities reported in the last 24 hours, according to Indian media reports, citing government data.
UAE Connections Affected
Though cargo flights are not included, passengers will have to wait it out before traveling between India and Australia; Canada; Germany; Hong Kong; Indonesia; New Zealand; United Arab Emirates; and the United Kingdom, according to numerous international news reports. Other nations could follow suit.
The ban will be particularly impactful for UAE-based airlines such as Emirates (EK), Etihad (EY), FlyDubai (FZ) and Air Arabia (G9) that connect the Middle East and the world with the Indian diaspora.
India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation had air bubbles with at least 27 countries. These flights are likely to resume.
United Airlines Temporarily Suspends Service to Delhi
In a related move, United Airlines (UA) has temporarily halted flights to Delhi, citing COVID-19 restrictions as the reason.
A UA spokesperson confirmed to moneycontrol.com that as the airline sought clarification about COVID-19 travel requirements to India, it had temporarily suspended service to DEL for April 22 and canceled the corresponding return flights.
According to Flightradar24, all UA flights into Delhi, from Chicago, San Francisco and New York, were cancelled.
In a communication to its customers about its flight UA802 for April 23, from Delhi to New York, the airline said, “Your United Flight on Apr23 from Delhi has been cancelled because ongoing COVID-19 travel requirement discussions with local authorities are impacting our ability to operate your flight. We are working to address the issue and hope to have it resolved quickly…”
Featured image: Air India Boeing 777-300ER. Photo: Max Langley/Airways