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Drop in domestic flight bookings as states make COVID-19 test mandatory

Airlines have reported a 10-12 percent drop in domestic flight bookings in the last week owing to the additional curbs placed by several states due to surging COVID-19 cases.

Uttar Pradesh joined a list of states – Kerala, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Manipur – in making RT PCR tests mandatory for travellers arriving from certain states with high coronavirus cases.

Last week, authorities in Kashmir ordered that inbound travellers will not be allowed to leave the airport in Srinagar until their test report is received.

The test reports will be issued on the spot before letting the travellers go, an official spokesman said.

The Odisha government has made seven-day home isolation mandatory for people coming from 12 high-risk states by planes and trains, as the state’s caseload climbed to 3,37,018.

“Last-minute bookings are not taking place. Inbound loads have dropped to cities where RT-PCR tests have been made compulsory,” a report in Business Standard quoted a senior executive of a private airline.

An executive of another airline said the impact is around 20 percent, the report said.

Seat occupancy at Mumbai airport has declined from around 70-72 percent to 60-64 percent in the last three-four days as passengers are postponing or cancelling trips, the report said.

Despite a dip in traffic, travel booking websites are optimistic about a revival.

“Leisure and VFR segments have picked up and are now at 70-80 percent of pre-COVID levels. However, corporate bookings are still at 15-20 percent. There’s a further impact on bookings in the business travel segment due to RT PCR restrictions and we have seen a 10 percent decline in volumes in metro markets. But the dip in bookings is small and we feel business will recover soon,” said Sabina Chopra, co-founder and chief operating officer (corporate travel), Yatra.com, as per the report.

Meanwhile, in related news, aviation regulator DGCA extended the suspension of international commercial passenger flight services till March 31.
Scheduled international flight operations were suspended from March 23 last year in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in the country.