Monday, September 27, 2021

Airfares unlikely to return to normal anytime soon, expats feel the pinch

Is the dramatic rise in airfares an indication of the post-pandemic recovery? Hard to say but if the latest trend is any indication, the exorbitant ticket rates charged by airlines post the second wave is likely to continue for a few more months, burning a hole in the pockets of expatriates. Seats to various destinations in the Gulf countries are selling like hot cakes, something the airlines have missed since the Covid outbreak. In turn, the surge in demand, unsurprisingly, is pushing up flight ticket prices to a record high.

A ticket on the Kochi-Kuwait route for Monday is priced in the range of Rs 1,05,100 to Rs 2,18,500, the highest among the GCC countries. The Kochi-Riyadh flight ticket costs Rs 1,98,400.   An airline officer said there is little chance of airfares returning to normal in the next few months as the fare on each route is demand-driven.

“Many expats who arrived in the state before the second wave are now trapped. Also, overseas firms have started recalling staff who were told to go on leave once the restrictions were eased in various countries. In the case of Kuwait and Saudi, they have allowed only restricted entry, which is one of the main reasons for the high rates on these routes. Meanwhile, the Dubai Expo that begins on October 1 has contributed to the high fare on the Kerala-UAE routes,” he said. 

Some airlines have reduced the number of available seats after the Covid outbreak, which too resulted in ticket prices skyrocketing. Though the Centre is planning to open the borders for foreigners soon by offering sops to revitalise the hospitality and airline sectors, the move is not expected to bring any major change in airfare dynamics as the number of foreigners visiting Kerala is not very big from the point of view of airlines, which mainly cater to passengers in the ‘visiting friends and relatives’ (VFR) category.

Kerala is not a big attraction for foreigners, except for wellness travel, in comparison to Colombo or Bangkok, experts have said. On Saturday Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that Venu Rajamony, the state government’s Officer on Special Duty in New Delhi, has taken up various issues faced by Pravasis with the external affairs ministry. “Among other things, the travel woes of expats were also presented before the central government officials, to find a solution,” he said.

27/09/21 Dhinesh Kallungal/New Indian Express

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