Travel service providers see strong uptick for travel to the UK after restrictions ease
With the rise in demand, the US update on acceptance of fully vaccinated Indians without quarantining from November 8 and the announcement on resumption of international services by carriers such as Thai Airways, the industry is expecting the government to now take steps towards resumption of scheduled commercial air travel.
“The UK government’s acceptance of fully vaccinated Indians without quarantine has created a strong uptick from families and our business travellers. We are now looking forward to additional capacity deployment which has been stunted over the past year and a half. British Airways, Virgin and Vistara are eager to serve this demand, currently limited to bubble flight operations,” said Indiver Rastogi, president, Global Business Travel for Thomas Cook (India) and SOTC.
Rastogi said with the present capacity constraints, fares that are already more than 50% higher than pre-pandemic levels may see a further surge with the growing interest from India. “We await a positive announcement from the aviation ministry on reopening of Indian skies to commercial operations as this will certainly bring relief with an equilibrium in airfare,” he said.
Following a massive uproar, the UK exempted fully vaccinated Indians from mandatory quarantine from October 11, which led to India withdrawing its tit-for-tat measures for travellers arriving from the UK.
But the ban on scheduled commercial international passenger services is continuing. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had extended the ban till October 31.
According to ixigo, average one-way fares between September 21 and October 15 for routes such as Bengaluru-London and Hyderabad-London went up 22% and 28% respectively.
Aloke Bajpai, group CEO, ixigo said besides London, the platform has seen a rise in search queries in the past two months for destinations such as Male, Dubai, Moscow, Sharjah, Abu Dhabi and Vancouver. “Strong pent-up demand has led to an increase in last-minute fares for certain popular international routes due to the limited frequency of flights under the air bubble agreements,” he said.
Prashant Pitti, co-founder of EaseMyTrip, said he hoped international travelling would get more economical in the times to come. “With the news of the US and UK borders opening up for Indians and the recognition of the Indian vaccine, the timing could not have been better for the industry. EaseMyTrip has already seen a surge in the searches and is confident that the same is also transcending into bookings as well. A few airlines are also in the process of opening new routes for travellers,” he said.
Rajeev Kale, president and country head for Holidays, MICE and Visa at Thomas Cook India said demand for the UK is led primarily by families, a key driver for travel, starting from November.
“The destinations seeing uptick include London and Scotland, with our products of individual and group tours, also self-drive trips, seeing brisk business. From a MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences and exhibitions) perspective, while we have received interest for corporate incentive movements, we are awaiting reopening of commercial flights to ease up both access and airfare pricing as this will ensure viability,” said Kale.