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India opens to foreign tourists but high international airfares hinder both inbound & outbound travel

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India opens to foreign tourists but high international airfares hinder both inbound & outbound travel

NEW DELHI: India on Monday reopened its doors for fully vaccinated foreign tourists from across the world.
Travellers who have got approved jabs are allowed in quarantine-free from as many as 99 countries including US, UK, UAE, Qatar, France and Germany.
But sky-high international airfares due to limited air bubble flights are playing party pooper for both those who wish to come to India and those who wish to fly abroad for visiting friends and relatives or just good old tourism.
Sample this: A return economy class air ticket on Delhi-San Francisco or Delhi-Toronto for travel around Christmas and New Year is upwards of Rs 1.5 lakh, Mumbai-New York starts at Rs 1.2 lakh and Bengaluru-London is upwards of Rs 80,000. On peak travel days, a one-way ticket can cost more than pre-pandemic return fares.
A senior aviation ministry had recently said flights under air bubbles will be increased as per demand. But a delay in doing so means a large number of people are forced to book at exorbitant rates and subsequent drop in fares due to more flights being allowed does not benefit them.
This was seen during UK student travel days this August-September.
Travel Agent Federation of India joint secretary Anil Kalsi said: “The limited international flights have reduced capacity and led to manifold increase in fares.
For example, Dubai-Dubai economy return is currently more than double of pre-pandemic level of under Rs 20,000. Spot fares on this route are upwards of Rs 45,000 while advance booking can bring the level down to Rs 35-40,000. The government should consider resumption of scheduled international flights with countries where Covid is in control and which mutually accept our vaccines and certification.”
German ambassador to India Walter J Lindner Tweeted Monday: “Incredible India opens its doors again, tourists now can fly to India. Happy that Covid-19 situation in India has improved lots in the last months. Hope soon regular commercial flights will fly again…”
Consumers and the diplomatic and travel community have requested the government to allow more international flights to allow airfares to return to saner levels.
“The prices are simply exorbitant. We would love to fly in more often but the crazy prices don’t allow us to do that,” said San Francisco-based Preety Chopra (name changed on request) whose mother lives in Mumbai and is undergoing cancer treatment.
High airfares are hurting more due to “new” costs for travellers during Covid worldwide. A majority of countries require negative report from a Covid test taken within one to three days to allow travellers in. So a minimum of two tests are required — one while going from origin to destination country and en another one on return. UAE additionally requires people headed there to undergo a rapid antigen test at the origin airport before boarding the flight.
The institutional quarantine cost of staying in hotels is one big ticket item that is fast being dropped by many countries to resume visitor flow. Now fully vaccinated with approved jabs coming to India from 99 countries can do so quarantine free by uploading their fully vaccinated certificate on the Air Suvidha portal apart from the negative report from a Covid test taken within 72 hours of departure to India.
India had suspended tourists visas last March. It allowed foreign tourists to fly into India on charters from October 15, 2021, and on non-charters from November 15.

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