Saturday, November 27, 2021

Flyers look forward to eased int’l travel as bars are lifted

Kolkata: An increase in frequency of flights to Dubai, Bangkok and Dhaka; resumption of flights to Abu Dhabi, Kathmandu and Paro; improved connectivity in flights to Europe and the US and a slash in international fares that have gone through the roof: these are among the offers that flyers from Kolkata can look forward to following the aviation ministry’s decision to allow scheduled international flights from December 15.Scheduled international flights were suspended on March 22, 2020. The only international flights that have been operating to and from India are those under air bubble agreements signed between India and 31 countries. But these flights had severe capacity constraints as frequency was less than that before Covid times. Also, these flights did not allow passengers to undertake onward travel.

Though some capacity restriction has been announced on flights to countries that have been categorised as “risky”, like the UK and Bangladesh, Kolkata airport director C Pattabhi expects several carriers that are currently operating bubble flights to increase frequency from January and a few others, which had stayed away, to again link Kolkata. “We now have three-four international flights a day. That number should go up to 10-12 in January and then, steadily improve as the situation normalizes across the globe. It will be great to see the international wing of the terminal abuzz again,” he said.

The travel trade community feels Emirates, FlyDubai and Qatar to be among the first airlines to increase frequency from three times-a-week to Dubai and two times-a-week to Doha at present to a daily service some time in January. Travel agents also expect IndiGo to hike its frequency to Dubai and reintroduce flights to Bangkok, and Air India to increase frequency to Bangkok and reintroduce flights to Dubai. Both Dubai and Bangkok are high-demand sectors from Kolkata that were constrained due to the limitations on flight.

“There are indications of SpiceJet restarting flights to Bangkok,” said an industry source.

Etihad is expected to return to Kolkata and connect the city to Abu Dhabi.

The big difference though will be in the long-haul routes, such as Europe and the US, where economy fares have touched business class rates. “As scheduled operations resume, frequencies will increase and airlines can carry onward traffic, like before. This will bring down fares drastically,” said travel agent Anil Punjabi.

27/11/21 Subhro Niyogi/Times of India

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