The number of air passengers in and out of Kolkata has dropped dramatically over the past week because of the fresh Covid wave that is sweeping the country at the moment.
Kolkata airport officials said the number of passengers has halved compared to about seven days back, and the flights are less by 100. They said it is the domestic sector that has been hit.
Tour operators said they were facing huge cancellations from leisure travellers, most of whom are saying they are scared to go to another city or state and develop Covid symptoms and get quarantined or are confused over the changing travel norms.
Also, there are many travellers who are developing Covid symptoms, testing positive and are forced to cancel their travel plans.
“The passenger footfall at Kolkata airport has gone down from 50,000 daily a week ago to 25,000 now. The Covid wave has led to huge cancellations and the domestic sector has been worst affected,” C. Pattabhi, the director of Kolkata airport said on Thursday.
The number of daily flights taking off and landing at the city airport has also gone down to around 250 from about 350 in the last seven days, said Pattabhi.
The number of international travellers, barely 600 a day, has remained the same because for some time it has been essential travel to and from other countries, Pattabhi said. However, there was a big jump in the number of domestic passengers after the number of Covid cases had gone down last year. During the Christmas holidays, tens of thousands of people travelled to various domestic destinations.
But once the new surge started, the numbers dropped sharply. “There has been a sharp drop in revenue, too,” said Pattabhi.
The airlines and tour operators have been hit by the third wave of Covid.
SpiceJet sources said the airline had about 30 per cent of the bookings in and out of Kolkata cancelled in the past week. To minimise losses airlines like IndiGo, SpiceJet and others are offering free rebooking for passengers.
“We had five big groups who had booked for domestic travel, cancelling their trips in the last one week,” said Raktim Roy, the managing partner of Dolphin Travels.
He said the tours were scheduled for Duars in north Bengal, Rajasthan, Gujarat and Madhya Pradesh.
“The forests in Bengal are closed for tourists because of the pandemic. Also, many travellers are apprehensive about developing symptoms of Covid after reaching the tourist destination and getting quarantined there,” said Roy.
There are others who are apprehensive about getting RT-PCR tests done, mandatory for travelling in and out of some states. They think if the results are positive, they would need to be in isolation for seven days.
Doctors and health officials have said there are many people without symptoms who have tested positive during routine RT-PCR tests.
There is confusion among a large section of travellers about different Covid norms in different states.
Some states have mandatory Rt-PCR test reports to be done within 48 hours of travel, while others have testing done upon arrival.
Tour operators said there is a large number of travellers who are either testing positive during routine RT-PCR tests or developed symptoms before the journey.
“I had a group of 52 international travellers to Sharjah on Thursday. Out of them, 17 tested positive during the mandatory Covid test,” said Amin Asghar, director, A and A Travel Zone Pvt Ltd and senior vice president, Skal International, Kolkata.