Travel is back with a bang despite rising air fares in India

India resumed regular international flights late last month after a two-year break due to the Covid pandemic, leading to a rush of bookings from travellers keen to go overseas for the first time since March 2020.

According to industry estimates, India was the world’s fastest-growing major aviation market before the Covid-19 pandemic. Tour agencies anticipate local traffic to exceed pre-pandemic levels of 415,000 daily flights within a year.

“With this step of regular international flights, I am confident the sector will reach new heights,” said civil aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia.

In the last two years, limited international passenger flights were operating between India and select countries under bilateral air bubble arrangements.

Travel reboot

As many as 60 airlines from 40 countries have been permitted to operate 1,783 flights to and from India over the summer, said the director general of India’s Civil Aviation.

The summer schedule will be effective from 27 March until 29 October.

Soaring jet fuel prices due to Russia’s war with Ukraine and limited flight capacity mean passengers are paying almost twice and, at times, thrice the normal fare for flights in and out of India.

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Some of the international carriers were fast enough to increase their airfares due to the fuel price increase during this week and the same is expected to rise further, in an event the fuel prices go up more,” said Jay Bhatia, vice-president, Travel Agents Association of India.

“The domestic fares have yet to see the impact of the fuel price rise.”

Bookings for business class seats on flights and five-star hotels have already doubled compared to pre-pandemic numbers as a percentage of total reservations.

“Ideally, airfares should go down, but we have this looming crisis of the Ukraine war which has caused oil prices to rise sharply,” said aviation sector analyst Vinamra Longani.

Have ticket, will travel

While Indian carriers are prepared for normal international services, various foreign airlines, including Emirates, Virgin Atlantic and LOT Polish, have announced plans about their services to and from India.

India’s largest airline IndiGo said it will resume scheduled international flights on 150-plus routes in a phased manner during April.

In the meantime, government has revised the Covid-19 guidelines for international flight operations, including the removal of the requirement to keep three seats vacant on overseas flights for medical emergencies.

The government has also eased Covid-19 safety rules at airports and in flights, such as doing away with having three vacant seats inside an aircraft for social distancing.

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Besides, the requirement for the crew for having a complete protection kit has been dispensed.

Dyninno Travel, operating International Travel Network, ASAP tickets, and other travel brands, said that airline ticket sales between the US and India grew four times in the first quarter 2022 compared to the corresponding period in 2019.

The US lifted all restrictions for fully vaccinated international travellers, including from India, from 8 November but they will have to show proof of a negative coronavirus test before boarding a flight to the country.

The UN World Tourism Organisation says international travel won’t recover fully before 2024.

Source: Modern Ghana