The aviation and travel planning industry faces its best year for outbound travel since the pandemic, with Indians starting to book for their favorite destinations abroad, although high fuel prices and vaccine restrictions remain potential downside risks.

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ET airlines and travel agents have contacted demand for seeing a spike after the government announced the resumption of scheduled international flights from March 27.

Air India and Vistara – the only two Indian airlines that operate to Europe and the Americas – said they are seeing a huge increase in demand.

“At Vistara, we are evaluating options and working on additional flights. We have already seen good demand on our international network, especially on long-haul routes, and hope the trend will continue,” Vistara said in an email response to questions from Et.

Air India said it expects “good growth in leisure travel on mainly tourist routes over the coming holiday season, provided there is no threat of new variants”.

Travel industry insiders say the demand is for both long-haul and short-haul international flights. “We are seeing a strong 20-40% increase in queries, with Switzerland, France, Spain and the UK in Europe still leading the way (40% increase), followed by short hauls like Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Thailand, Maldives, Turkey, Egypt, Singapore (30%); and also long-haul flights like Australia (20%),” said Rajeev Kale, President and Country Head, Vacations, MICE and Visa at Thomas Cook (India).

Online travel portals like and Cleartrip also say they have witnessed an increase in travel demand.

Industry insiders and airlines, however, say the 270-day validity of vaccine certificates is likely to impact the plans of various leisure travelers.

“We will have to see if this issue has a major impact on flights from India. Generally, the elderly population is currently only eligible for a booster dose in India, while the travel segment of amenity mainly comprises families of all age groups – young and old,” Air India said in an email response.

Countries in Europe such as Switzerland and Spain have announced that vaccine certificates older than 270 days will only be considered valid if they are backed up by a booster shot. In case of invalid vaccination certificates, the passenger will have to produce a negative RT-PCR certificate.

“Leisure travel plans are for June and many Indians’ vaccination certificates will expire by then (under the 270 day validity rule). This will have a huge impact on demand. Key destinations in Europe will be off limits to many Indian travelers unless the government allows the booster dose for all,” said Ajay Prakash, Chairman of the Travel Agents Federation of India.

As airlines plan to increase capacity as scheduled international flights resume, fares will continue to remain higher on international routes.

“Fares will only come down when airlines add much more capacity than demand, which will be high. Despite the capacity additions, rising fuel prices and the depreciation of the rupee are expected to keep tariffs going,” Prakash added.

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