Tuesday, December 22, 2020

New coronavirus variant dashes aviation hopes, upsets non-resident Keralites' plans

Thiruvananthapuram: Close on the heels of India deciding to ban flights to and from the United Kingdom after a more infectious and "out of control" coronavirus variant was detected there, Saudi Arabia, Oman and Kuwait have decided to suspend all flights, including to India.

The development is a huge blow to non-resident Keralites, upsetting their plans to reach the state during Christmas and New Year. During the lockdown, when NORKARoots started the registration for UK expatriates to come home under the Vande Bharat Mission, as many as 3,813 persons registered.

But many more queued up and 8,108 expatriates finally made use of the opportunity to return from the UK.

The emergence of the new coronavirus variant is set to pour cold water on the hopes of airlines operating from the state.

Oman decided to close down its land, air and sea borders starting Tuesday, while Saudi and Kuwait have suspended all international flights for two weeks from Monday night.

A  senior official with the Air India Express told The New Indian Express the new development is worrying for airline companies in many respects. 

"The new development comes at a time when airline companies have been slowly returning to their feet after a low. Airlines were able to operate as many as 750 flights to six countries last month, which is around half the aircraft utilisation of companies compared to pre-COVID times. Should the situation worsen, it would have a cascading effect on other countries with which India has entered into air-bubble agreements," the official said.

22/12/20 Dhinesh Kallungal/New Indian Express

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