The Indian government’s recent decision to suspend scheduled international flights to and from India until further notice has not gone down well with Indian outbound tour operators.
The announcement has come at a time when stakeholders were expecting travel demand to rebound for overseas summer holidays this April to June, especially as more destinations begin to reopen their borders for tourism.
Indiver Rastogi, president and group head, global business travel, Thomas Cook (India) & SOTC, told TTG Asia: “The announcement deferring the restart of India’s commercial aviation is a strong concern and a clear dampener of travel sentiment. India’s bubble agreements worked as an interim stop-gap solution, but are not conducive to bridging the demand-supply gap and inflationary airfares.
“This is the critical booking season for India’s travel peak (summer vacations) and the return to scheduled flight operations is mission critical towards the recovery of the overall sector.”
Flights placed under the Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s air bubble agreement will not be affected by the government’s suspension. As of March 2022, there are special passenger flights connecting India with some 37 countries under the air bubble agreement.
Rohit Kohli, joint managing director, Creative Travel, said the government decision goes “against all rational thinking”.
He said: “The Indian government has once again moved the goal post for international flights. Not only does this not make any sense, it’s also highly detrimental for the tourism industry, both inbound and outbound.
“The biggest outcome of the lack of scheduled flights is that Indians have to pay a much higher premium on airfares because airlines are taking advantage of the lack of supply (when there is) pre-Covid level of demand.”
Veena Robinson, vice president – India sales with Discover Destinations, expects the flight suspension to weaken summer holidays business and outbound travel growth potential.
However, Nishant Kashikar, country manager, India & Gulf with Tourism Australia, shared that some airline partners have suggested the Indian government may allow scheduled international flights to operate by the end of March.
Should that fail to happen, however, Tourism Australia would postpone its planned promotional activities in India.
“There is no point in creating demand when there is no (flight) supply,” he remarked.