As India beats Covid back, Lufthansa restarts non-stop Germany flights
Lufthansa flights between India and Germany would no longer require a crew change stopover in the Gulf
Even as the UAE extends the suspension on flyers from India, the improving Covid-19 situation in India has convinced German flag carrier Lufthansa to restart non-stop flights between India and Germany, without a crew change stopover in the Gulf. This revision in the airline's stance came into effect on June 2.
The resumption of non-stop flights would significantly reduce travel time. As a result of this crew change decision by the airline, a flight from Frankfurt to Delhi/Mumbai, which normally takes about seven hours used to take nine hours. The 11-hour flight between Frankfurt and Bengaluru used to be completed in 13 hours.
Lufthansa had announced last month that its flights to and from India would make a stopover at the global aviation hub of Dubai. This was to ensure that the airline's pilots and cabin crew did not require a layover in India, which had become the worst global Covid-19 hotspot at that time.
India, which was being buffeted by a viciously infectious variant of the coronavirus and indeed the renewed Covid wave, started reporting more than three lakh and then, more than four lakh daily new cases in end-April to early May. The crippling shortage of hospital beds, testing kits and oxygen had exacerbated matters and mass pyres and even bodies dumped in rivers in the world's second-most populous country had shocked and alarmed the world.
The German carrier, which operates 10 weekly flights between Frankfurt and India (Delhi-4, Mumbai-3 and Bengaluru-3) under the air bubble arrangement, decided that one set of its aircrew would fly from Frankfurt to Dubai and another set would take the plane to India. On the return leg, the same crew members would fly the plane to Dubai and then the third set of aircrew would fly the plane back to Germany. This was done to ensure that the Lufthansa pilots and cabin crew did not require a layover in India.
Around the same time, several countries of the world had imposed stringent restrictions on passengers flying directly from India or even transiting through India. Those restrictions still, by and large, continue.
The Lufthansa flights to India were planned to be quick turnaround (QTA) flights, and the crew members were not required to leave the aircraft while in Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru, and from there were supposed to fly back to Dubai. The crew members operating flights to India were not allowed into Dubai and had to stay in transit inside the Dubai airport and from there, fly back to Germany.
Later, the UAE imposed new restrictions on passengers from India transiting through Dubai, which forced Lufthansa to look for an alternative stopover destination for its flights. Accordingly, Bahrain was selected. There was another twist in the tale when Bahrain itself banned travellers from India. Bahrain was largely being used as a transit point by non-resident Indians (NRIs) to finish their 14-day quarantine outside India to be eligible to return to the UAE and other countries in the Gulf that had prohibited the entry of travellers from India.
The marked decrease in daily Covid cases in India gave Lufthansa the opportunity to avoid the tricky situation that had arisen due to both the UAE and Bahrain toughening their positions.
On June 4, India reported 1.32 lakh daily cases of Covid-19. The daily case count stayed below two lakh for the eighth straight day. Moreover, recoveries were more than daily new cases for the 22nd day on the trot. Active cases fell by 77,420 in the past 24 hours and the national recovery rate improved further to 93.08%. As many as 22.41 crore vaccine doses have been administered so far. On June 1, India had reported its lowest daily new case count in 54 days, with a figure of 1.27 lakh. Active cases on June 1 fell below 20 lakh after 43 days.
Since the later part of April, Germany had barred the entry of passengers travelling from India, and only certain categories of passengers are currently allowed. These include German nationals, those holding German resident permit, certain holders of German C and D type visas, marine passengers destined for Germany/joining a vessel in Germany or travelling onwards to a non-Schengen destination, members of a foreign diplomatic mission or consular office and their accompanying close family members whose appointment and arrival into Germany has been notified to the German Federal Foreign Office and students on German student D type visa (only for re-entry), the Lufthansa website says.
"All passengers from the age of six must present a negative Covid-19 test result (PCR, antigen, RT-LAMP or TMA) at the time of departure. The sample given for proof of negative Covid-19 test must not be older than 24 hours in the case of an antigen test and not older than 72 hours in case of an RT-PCR test from the planned arrival into Germany," Lufthansa says on its website. It adds that a 10-day quarantine and Digital Entry Application (DEA) or a replacement application remain mandatory for all entrants.
(Cover image courtesy Wikimedia Commons/Flickr/Kiefer)