Domestic air travel has started picking up once again as the receding third wave of Covid is prompting many to cast away fears of the disease.
Travel industry is hopeful that the number of international passengers will go up, too, following the health ministry’s announcement on Thursday easing restrictions for in-bound travellers.
The number of passengers and flights to and from Kolkata had taken a plunge during the third wave of infections.
With the number of daily new cases now going down rapidly, passenger footfall and flights have started going up again, said officials.
“In the last five days, we have seen a growth in the number of domestic passengers and flights,” C. Pattabhi, director of the Kolkata airport, said on Friday.
The daily passenger footfall at the airport has gone up from around 17,000 on an average to 30,000, said Pattabhi. The number of daily flights has gone up, too - from 160 to around 200 in the last five days.
“We are expecting a further growth in the passenger count after April, when the examinations are over, if there is no fresh surge in Covid cases,” Pattabhi said.
This newspaper reported in January that the daily passenger footfall at the airport had gone down from 50,000 to 25,000 during the third wave. It reduced further to 17,000 before picking up again.
However, the number of international passengers and flights is not going up, said officials.
Now, around 14 international flights are taking off from or landing at the Kolkata airport. The passenger count stands at a little more than 1,000.
“We are expecting the number of international passengers arriving in India to increase following the easing of travel norms,” said Anil Punjabi, chairman, east, Travel Agents Federation of India.
The health ministry on Thursday announced that a person arriving in India should monitor their health for 14 days. The new protocol will kick in on February 14.
The current rule for such travellers is to quarantine for seven days on arrival.
One tour operator in Thailand said he was organising a group tour of Thai nationals to India.
“We are organising a tour of the Buddhist circuit in May. A group of 80 people will be travelling to Kolkata and onwards to the Buddhist destinations,” said Gautam Gurbani, general manager, The Expedition Co. Ltd.
He said such trips would be organised every month before the outbreak of Covid-19. The pandemic has brought such tours to a halt.
“With the Indian government announcing relaxations in quarantine rules, people are again wanting to travel,” he said.