Saudi Arabia bans flights from India amid surging coronavirus cases

Covid-19 tally in India exceeds 5.7 million on Thursday, after over 86,000 fresh cases were registered in the last 24 hours

Saudi Arabia has banned flights from India in light of the surging coronavirus cases in the South Asian country.

Saudi Arabia has banned flights from India in light of the surging coronavirus cases in the South Asian country.

Although a circular issued by Saudi Arabia’s General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA) said it was “suspending travel to and from the following countries – India, Brazil and Argentina”, airline industry sources in India said repatriation flights from the kingdom are still allowed to operate.

India’s national carrier Air India and its sister airline Air India Express, besides private carrier IndiGo were operating repatriation flights – also called Vande Bharat Mission (VBM) flights – from Saudi Arabia.

“Our flights are carrying passengers from Saudi Arabia,” a senior Air India Express official told Arabian Business.

“We are, however, not allowed to carry passengers from India to Saudi Arabia,” the airline official said.

The official said Air India Express has been operating only one or two flights a week to Saudi Arabia this month.

The bulk of the VBM flights to the kingdom were operated by Air India.

A spokesperson from Indian budget carrier SpiceJet said the airline was only operating chartered flights from Saudi Arabia, which will stand discontinued after the ban.

Airline sources said the ban is valid “till further orders”.

India had reportedly scheduled as many as 32 repatriation flights to and from Saudi Arabia under the sixth phase of VBM, lasting until the end of September.

The ban on Indian flights by Saudi Arabia comes close on the heels of Dubai civil aviation authorities last week imposing a temporary ban on Air India Express flights to the city due to violations of coronavirus-related issues.

Although the ban originally was for a fortnight from September 18 until October 2, the issue was resolved within hours, with Air India Express resuming flights to Dubai from Saturday.

The GACA circular on the new flight ban said it would also be applicable to any person who has been in any of the mentioned countries – India, Brazil and Argentina – in the last 14 days prior to their arrival to the kingdom.

However, it excluded passengers who have official government invitations.

The Covid-19 tally in India rose above 5.7 million on Thursday, after more than 86,000 fresh cases were registered in the last 24 hours.

The coronavirus-related death toll in India also climbed to 91,149 so far, according to the latest data released by India’s ministry of Health and Family Welfare.

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