US citizens and expatriates from Europe are travelling back home amid a sharp surge in Covid-19 cases in India and government advisories asking them to return.
While travel companies are seeing a surge in inquiries, Air India is operating extra flights from Delhi to New York, Newark, and San Francisco and higher capacity Boeing 777 aircraft from Mumbai to Newark to cater to the demand.
“There is a huge surge in inquiries for travel to the US in the past two-three days. Apart from US citizens, green card holders and Indians whose children work in the US too are looking to travel. But flights to the US are currently are full and getting seats is difficult,” said Jyoti Mayal, president of Travel Agents Association of India.
“People are willing to travel at a short notice by paying high fares,” said Madhav Oza, director of Blue Star Travels. A one-way ticket on non-stop flights from Mumbai to Newark on Friday was priced at over Rs 140,000 for last-minute bookings while one-stop flights via Doha on Saturday was available for around Rs 93,000.
On Wednesday, the US government issued an advisory asking its citizens not to travel to India and or to leave it as soon as safe to do so. The US government cited shortages of medical infrastructure while sharing its advice. “Access to all types of medical care is becoming severely limited in India due to the surge in Covid-19 cases,” it said. On Thursday, it authorised the voluntary departure of family members of US government employees in India.
A few days back, the German Embassy in New Delhi highlighted health concerns in a communication to its citizens asking them to consider returning temporarily. A source said there was no exodus of German residents from India at present.
An airline executive, however, pointed out that families of expatriate executives working in India have begun returning to Europe and the US. “We have seen this trend in the last ten days,” he said.
A sharp surge in Covid-19 cases in Delhi has led to a severe shortage of hospital beds and medical oxygen in the national capital. Non- availability of timely medical assistance is the main cause of worry among foreign nationals working in India. Further children of expatriates, too, have completed their academic terms and so it easier for families to proceed home.
“Our non-stop flights on the India-USA-India sector have always been very popular. Any surge in interest for seats on our flights to the US can be attributed to various factors. We will not like to make any specific comment on the same,” said an airline spokesperson. United Airlines did not immediately respond to a query on the topic.