Travel restrictions enforced by India on the scheduled airlines for international flights continue to affect Indian students studying abroad.
The most recent example is the high cost of returning to India during the winter vacation near the end of the year. Due to the high demand and limited supply, return airfares to India from nations such as the United States, the United Kingdom, and Canada is currently around three times the fares, according to parents. Students traveling to India from the west coast of the United States are the hardest affected.
“With Singapore, Hong Kong, and Bangkok closed to Indian fliers this year, students from the west coast of the United States have no choice but to transit through Europe and the Middle East,” observed a travel agency.
Air India’s cheapest return cost for mid-December to early-January travel on the San Francisco-Delhi non-stop aircraft started at Rs 2.3 lakh, on October 16. A transit via Dubai was a cheaper option, but it cost Rs 1.9 lakh and took 25 hours for each trip. San Francisco-Mumbai return tickets started at Rs 2.2 lakh, including an Air India transit through Delhi. Other fares are also costly.
The cheapest round-trip cost from New York to Mumbai started at Rs 1.6 lakh and included a layover in Dubai as well as a 23-hour journey each way. The least expensive nonstop return tickets from New York to Delhi started at Rs 1.7 lakh.
Furthermore, round-trip flights from Boston to Mumbai started at Rs 1.7 lakh, with fares from Chicago to Mumbai via Dubai starting at Rs 1.9 lakh. The cheapest return flight from London to Mumbai was Rs 1.4 lakh on Air India, with a cheaper cost of Rs 1.15 lakh involving a Dubai stopover. Delhi offers greater non-stop connectivity, with a non-stop return flight from Toronto to Delhi costing Rs 2 lakh and a non-stop flight from Chicago to Delhi costing Rs 1.8 lakh.
Navin Bhatia (name changed), a father who splits his time between the UK and India, has opted to meet his children in Dubai this winter, one of his children is studying in Canada and the other in the United States.
“It’s a lot cheaper to fly to Dubai than to India from here in the UK,” he said. “I’ll try to do a round trip to India from there if the fares are better. Currently, a Dubai-Mumbai return for the last week of December is priced at Rs 65,700,” he said.
Bhatia purchased the tickets three weeks ago, for departure in mid-December and return in January. A round trip in economy class from London to Dubai cost Rs 80,000, while economy class flights from London to Mumbai started at Rs 2 lakh. His daughter’s return flight from Vancouver to Dubai via Toronto cost Rs 1.4 lakh, while his son’s return flight from Boston to Dubai cost Rs 1.2 lakh. “Winter travel fares are at least three times higher than pre-Covid fares.” He continued, “In certain cases, they are almost four times the fares for the year 2019.” On March 23, last year, India halted planned international airline flights.
Overseas flight operations are currently conducted by ‘Air Bubble Agreements,’ which India has signed with 28 countries and which enable direct and indirect connection to over a hundred international destinations.