The central government may resume international flight operation by mid-July (around July 15), said sources on Saturday. The government will be in a better position to start international flights when the domestic air traffic volume reaches 50 per cent, added the sources. The Centre expects it to reach 50 per cent around July 15, further added the sources.

Ahead of the pandemic, 300,000 people travelled daily by air and based on this data the government will decide the way forward.

Currently, after the resumption of domestic flight service from May 25, around 65,000-70,000 people are flying by air every day while 30,000 people travelled by air on May 25. About 700 flights are flying daily on the domestic route.

According to Union Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri, the government is going to increase many domestic routes and flight frequencies in the next week. He said that this step will not only benefit in meeting demand but also increase the domestic air traffic volume.

Earlier addressing a press conference on flight operations and related issues, Puri asserted that the international flight operations will start only after other countries open their air space or borders.

Puri said, “Any suggestion that international traffic has opened up and we are the only one not to open up, needs a reality check. The exact time when we will resume international flight depends on the other countries to be open to receive flights. In absence of a decision on resumption of international civil aviation we are left with no option but to continue what I call evacuation and repatriation flights under managed and controlled conditions.”

He said that close to 2,75,000 Indians, who were stranded in foreign countries, have been brought back to the country in flights and ships during the lockdown.

Civil Aviation Secretary P S Kharola said that the upper and lower limits on airfares may be extended beyond August 24 depending on how the situation pans out. “There has been a paradigm shift in people’s way of air travel. Today, almost all people are getting boarding passes while sitting at home. The entire process of boarding, check-in, baggage drops have been made contactless. Even at the security frisking or checks, the risk has been minimized. Air travel is nearly risk-free. There has been no adverse impact of coronavirus on fliers,” he said.

He added, “All stakeholders have responded best in all possible manners.”

The Director-General of the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security (BCAS) Rakesh Asthana said, “We have the contributed hassle-free mobility without security compromise. The boarding passes are not stamped. The body searches are long-handled metal detector. We will use face recognition identity at the airport in the future.”

Speaking on refunds and cancellations, he said, “The government has issued very clear directives that refunds have to be made. The matter is subjudice and is under courts proceedings. DGCA is collecting as how much cancellations or refunds have to be made and soon a meeting with airlines to be held.”

On increasing the domestic flight operations or expanding the capacity, he said, “The government is closely monitoring the situation on an almost day-to-day basis. As the demands scale up, the domestic flight operations will be ramped up and as the demand comes in, flight operations will be expanded too.”

The government will add more routes in the next few days and targets to reach to about 50 per cent capacity to pre-COVID-19 data shortly, he added.