Air India on Wednesday announced commencement of flights to Bangkok from Kolkata, a day after Singapore Airlines said it would resume its operations from the city.
However, travel restrictions and complicated health protocols because of the Covid pandemic have made it unclear when tourists can actually start travelling in numbers to the two popular south-east Asian destinations from Kolkata.
Air India said it would start its twice-a-week service to Bangkok from December 8 and flights would operate every Wednesday and Sunday.
Thai Airways, which earlier had daily flights between Bangkok and Kolkata, has not announced resumption of services from the city despite the Thailand government allowing air links.
According to the Thailand tourism authorities, if someone from India is going to Thailand with two doses of a Covid vaccine, then they would need to be quarantined for at least one day or till the result of the RT-PCR test on arrival is available.
Some of the requirements are:
A certificate that the traveller is fully vaccinated with an approved vaccine at least 14 days before travelling.
Those previously infected with Covid within three months must have received one dose of an approved vaccine at least 14 days before travelling.
A medical certificate with an RT-PCR lab result indicating the person does not have Covid, issued within 72 hours before travel.
A confirmed payment for a one-night stay at an accommodation and an RT-PCR test.
Those who are unvaccinated or have received one dose, would be required to quarantine for 10 days and pay the expenses.
According to an official of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, those under the age of 18 are exempt from the vaccination programme if accompanied by parents.
“The quarantine rules mean added expenses. So many tourists, especially those who are planning to travel in big groups, might not be interested. Also, there are health protocol for which we need clarifications and only then can we sell these destinations again,” said a tour operator in Kolkata.
Singapore Airlines had announced its daily flights from Kolkata but since the city is not in the list of vaccinated travel lane or VTL, passengers would have to quarantine for 10 days.
“We have group bookings for Sri Lanka and Egypt where no quarantine is required. But for Thailand and Singapore, the demands are yet to come,” said Raktim Roy of Dolphin Travels.
“We are expecting the health protocol to be eased soon. Then the demands would rise,” said Anil Punjabi, chairman, east, Travel Agents Federation of India.
Businessman Lalit Tejwani who used to travel frequently between Kolkata and Singapore for work has been stuck in the city for several months.
“For the last one year, I have been trying to go back to Singapore but was unable to do so. Now, I am planning a trip,” said Tejwani. He is planning to go through Delhi or Mumbai to avoid the quarantine.
City-based businessman Aroon Shahani used to go to Thailand on vacation with his wife and two daughters twice a year before the pandemic.
“I could not go there for almost two years. Now that the flights are resuming, we are planning a trip,” said Shahani.