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COVID-19: Air Canada and Air India resume direct passenger flights from India into YVR

A Vancouver International Airport spokesperson said both Air Canada and Air India had direct flights from India arrive on Monday

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Direct passenger flights from India to Vancouver resumed on Monday, with Air Canada and Air India re-instating their nine direct flights a week.

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This came after Transport Canada revealed on Twitter on Sunday night that the ban on direct flights between the two countries due to COVID-19 concerns would be lifted at midnight. India is the source of the Delta COVID-19 variant that has completely taken over in B.C. and is more infectious than other variants.

Transport Canada said travellers must have a negative COVID-19 test from an approved laboratory at the New Delhi airport no more than 18 hours before their departure. Travellers must be fully vaccinated and registered on the federal government’s ArriveCAN mobile app or website.

A spokesperson for Vancouver International Airport said that both a direct Air Canada and Air India flight had arrived Monday from India.

“Air India has another flight scheduled on the 29th and Air Canada has a flight scheduled for (Sept. 28),” the spokesperson said.

“Air Canada and Air India have re-instated their scheduled service to India, which includes three flights weekly via Air India and six flights weekly via Air Canada. This is the same schedule, for both airlines, as pre-suspension.”

The COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for the airport and airline industry. In 2019 YVR saw 26.3 million passengers arriving and departing. In 2020 that number dropped to 7.3 million passengers and between January and August there were 3.1 million passengers coming or going.

One family’s journey raises questions about whether the direct flight ban had the intended impact.

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Hari Gopal Garg and his wife Komal Garg travelled from Toronto to India to adopt a baby girl, Kaveri, and were set to return to Canada on April 25, three days after direct flights were banned.

The family decided to make a long trip back home, travelling through two other countries, so Garg could get back to work and they could resume their lives, he said.

Garg and his family began their journey on June 8, travelling from India to Paris to Mexico, before landing in Canada six days later. Their travel included a three-day stay in Mexico and COVID-19 tests at every stop.

“We were very nervous,” he said Monday.

“You are contacting so many people on the way. You are changing flights. You are staying in hotels. It’s like the government created more ways to spread COVID. Otherwise you could come just directly without having so many touch points.”

The family spent about $6,000 on the trip, including hotel stays. The trip would have otherwise cost them about $2,000.

“I don’t think the flight ban helped at all,” Garg said.

“It created more problems for people who genuinely travelled and had a valid reason. It created more problems, more money spent and more mental stress. So, it didn’t solve any purpose.”

But Garg said he is “happy” that flights between the countries have resumed because there are a number of older people and families with children who may not have been able to make the long and expensive journey to Canada.

“I just hope the government makes some rational decisions in the future without any hidden political agendas,” Garg said.

“Think about the people who are suffering because of these and then make some wise decisions.”

Transport Canada announced in a news release last week an extension to the ban on all direct commercial and private passenger flights to Canada from India through Sunday.

— with files from Maan Alhmidi and Hina Alam

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