Air India, has been banned by Hong Kong authorities for a span of two weeks (August 18th to 31st) for ” carrying many passengers infected with Covid-19″. As part of the Vande Bharat Mission, Air India was scheduled to operate special flights from Delhi to Hong Kong on 18th, 21st, 25th, and 28th of August. The airline official confirmed the ban on Air India flights by Hong Kong authorities but did not mention the reasons for the ban. The official also confirmed that the airline was in talks with authorities in Hong Kong with regard to lifting the ban.
The Prevention and Control of Disease Regulation was invoked to suspend the airline’s flights
The Prevention and Control of Disease Regulation was invoked to suspend the airline’s flights till the end of August. The ban on the airline was because, on August 14th, 11 passengers were tested positive for Covid-19 upon landing in Hong Kong from Delhi. A report stated: “The fact 11 passengers tested positive on the same flight shows the lab tests back in India are not very reliable…The airline has to do deep cleaning (on its planes) and make sure it won’t happen again on future flights before they can be resumed.”
Air India’s post on Twitter states: “Due to restrictions imposed by Hong Kong Authorities, AI 310/315, Delhi – Hong Kong – Delhi of 18th August 2020 stands postponed. The next update in this regard will be intimated soon. Passengers may please contact Air India Customer Care for assistance.”
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has faced obstacles with its proposal with Hong Kong to establish an air bubble arrangement. The Ministry stated: “Civil aviation access is a matter of reciprocal bilateral arrangements. As far as flights to and from Hong Kong are concerned, the problem is that HK is not allowing flights from certain places of origin including India. Air India has applied for permission with the authorities.”
The ban on Air India’s flights by Hong Kong could impact the airline’s access to countries it operates in. The Civil Aviation Minister, Hardeep Singh Puri, mentioned recently that India was negotiating with 13 countries including Australia, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Israel, Russia, Singapore, Thailand, and South Korea, to establish air transport bubbles while at present India has transport arrangements with the UK, the US, France, Germany, the UAE, and the Maldives. Based on the data of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Air India has operated 1,866 outbound flights carrying over 1.5 lakh passengers under the Vande Bharat Mission.