In a significant move Saudi Arabia late on Tuesday night suspended all flights to and from India, Brazil and Argentina due to the rise in the number of Corona Virus cases in these three countries. The Saudi decision has taken airlines in India by surprise as they have been operating charter and repatriation flights from Saudi Arabia to India in the post lock-down period.
Saudi Arabia had already banned all international flights in mid-March itself. Even pilgrims from outside the country are not allowed to offer Hajj and Umrah. The first repatriation flight arrived from Saudi Arabia on May 8 in Kozhikode airport of Kerala. Later repatriation and charter flights to other airports of India also started.
According to the kingdom’s civil aviation regulator General Authority of Civil Aviation (GACA), Indian airlines will now not be allowed to operate any flights to Saudi Arabia nor will any flights from the Gulf nation be allowed to fly to India from 24 September. However no specific date has been mentioned to resume the flights.
The charter and repatriation flights had opened an opportunity for lakhs of Indian expatriates working in Saudi Arabia to return to their homes. The officials hope that the Indian government would take up the matter with Saudi authorities to revoke the suspension order.
The latest move by GACA has sent a wrong message and at the same time exposes the failure of the Indian government to control the Corona Virus. So far (23 September) 90,210 deaths have been recorded in India. Airline authorities fear that the Saudi decision may prompt other countries to suspend flights to and from India.