Thursday, February 13, 2020

‘Singapore’s Changi airport was empty!’

Indians travelling abroad are thronging the Gulf transit airports of Dubai, Doha and Kuwait, staying well clear of the South East Asian (SEA) transit hubs of Singapore, Malaysia, and Thailand as well Hong Kong in East Asia due to the Coronavirus pandemic. This, in turn, has pushed up airfares to the US or Europe via Gulf airports by 15-20 per cent, whereas there are no takers for flights via these South East Asian airports and Hong Kong.

Vyjanthi Krishnan was supposed to travel from Chennai to New York via Singapore to visit her children in June but cancelled the ticket and instead booked via Dubai. This is the case with thousands of others. Even those who are planning to come to India have postponed their trips, said travel agents.

There are no takers to the US via transit centres in South East Asia (SEA) such as Singapore, Malaysia and Bangkok. Everybody is opting only through Gulf airports, said Shanmugapriya Thyagarajan, Joint Managing Director, Embassy Travel and Tours. “There are a large number of cancellations of flights to the US or Europe for travel in June, July and August via SEA transit airports,” she told BusinessLine.

“Changi airport was empty,” said Ajay Singh, Chairman and Managing Director of budget airline SpiceJet. He was in Singapore recently.

Such is the concern that a customer who had booked a flight to Sydney via Singapore, which is the most convenient transit travelling point from Chennai, cancelled the ticket and asked to be routed via Dubai, which is quite a round-about route, she added.

People are also avoiding travel due to hassles and delays in international airports due to screening for the virus. “There could be a 30-40 per cent decline in international traffic,” she added.
13/02/20 TE Raja Simhan/Business Line
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