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As Indian government has decided to push back the scheduled restart of regular flights from December 15. The decision was taken amidst concerns over the spread of the Omicron variant of the COVID-19 virus. The new dates will be announced soon upon the health conditions and safety measures.

In a circular, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation said that they will be announcing new dates later.

The DGCA in its circular said that ‘in view of the evolving global scenario with the emergence of new Variants of Concern, the situation is being watched closely in consultation with all stakeholders and an appropriate decision indicating the effective date of resumption of scheduled commercial international passenger services shall be notified in due course.’

To contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus, all scheduled international flights to and from India have remained suspended from March 23, 2020.

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The global shutdown and the consequent impact on the travel and hospitality industry has been colossal.

As slowly the pace of vaccination increased and countries began to open their borders, even relax their pandemic containment regulations, the travel industry had started to grow hopeful.

With the Indian government deciding to allow regular flights from December 15 this year, the travel industry looked forward to cashing in on the year-end travel rush. However, with the news of the reversal of decision, all hopes have virtually evaporated.

The news of the emergence of the new variant from South Africa has already scuppered plans by many travellers. Ranjit K and Shilpa from Delhi, who had planned a delayed honeymoon trip to South Africa in January next year, have already cancelled the same. They are now planning to travel to Rajasthan.

Travel agents, including travel portals, are now being inundated with calls and queries from anxious customers. According to travel agents in Kolkata, with Bangladesh listed as an ‘at risk’ country under the revised guidelines for international arrivals published by the Indian Health Ministry, saw a flood of queries and cancellation of flights and accommodation.

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The subsequent exclusion from the list has stabilised the situation but many are concerned about the measures being adopted at the airport. While travel agents are themselves in the dark about the situation, they are hard pressed to help those calling to ask if they should cancel or postpone their international travel plans.

Many countries have halted flights to and from the southern African nations as well as tightened their border rules for international travellers despite WHO urging countries not to impose such flight bans.

Besides, with the new variant found in popular destinations such as Germany, Canada, Italy, and a few others, travellers and travel planners are now unsure how it will affect inter-country travel.

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Another key question bothering the industry is how long the travel bans and regulations will be in place because it is going to impact future travel as well. The rapid change in travel bans and regulations are also affecting schedules.

According to many medical experts, while non-essential travel is best avoided, all precautionary measures (complete vaccination, wearing of masks, distancing, sanitisation, etc.) must be adhered to in case you are travelling. Visiting crowded marketplaces and shopping malls, theatres and amusement parks, definitely raises the risk of getting infected.

Considering the nature of the Omicron variant still under study and its full impact yet to be ascertained, the global travel industry is still in a quandary about which direction to take. Hence most travel agents are now advising to book under flexible cancellation policies. Another key advice is to have a comprehensive COVID-19 insurance plan in case of any emergency. #KhabarLive #hydnews

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