International travel from Kolkata is coming back to life after two years with a host of countries easing Covid restrictions.
England has announced withdrawal of the legal requirement of self-isolation for those testing positive for Covid from February 24. Australia is allowing fully-vaccinated travellers to visit the country. The travellers must carry their vaccination certificates.
Several other countries, too, have eased quarantine and testing requirements.
“We are expecting the restriction on international flights to be lifted after February 28. Then there will be a definite rise in international passengers from the Kolkata airport,” said C. Pattabhi, director of the airport.
He said 14 international flights were now taking off from and landing at the city airport daily. The daily footfall of international passengers, which had gone down to 600, now varies around 1,000, the director said.
Tour operators said although schools have just fully reopened and examinations are round the corner, many Kolkatans are still booking tickets to countries including the UK, US and Australia, mostly to visit family members whom they have not met for two years.
However, the rush for travel and limited flights have resulted in a spike in fares, they said.
Businessman Vashdev Bahrunani is planning to travel to Melbourne soon to visit his three-year-old grandson, daughter and son-in-law.
“We had last visited our son-in-law three years back. We had planned to visit him once every year but were unable to go in the last two years because of Covid,” Bahrunani said on Tuesday.
“Now, with restrictions eased in Australia, we are planning to go there,” he said.
Harpreet Chawla and her husband have decided to travel to London in April to meet their daughter, Sahej, who is pursuing her postgraduation there.
“She went to London six months back. We could not accompany her then because of the Covid restrictions. As most restrictions have been withdrawn or eased, we think this is the right time to travel,” said Chawla.
An Alipore resident who did not wish to be named said she was planning a trip to the UK and then the US to meet her son and daughter.
“The Covid rules were strict and half of our holidays would have been spent in quarantine had we travelled between the pandemic waves. It was not worth taking the risk. We were cautious not to travel then,” said the woman who works for an international organisation.
Her son, who used to work in Bangalore, was transferred to the UK last February.
The daughter is staying in the US for almost 10 years and last came to Kolkata in January 2020.
“We had planned to visit her in May that year but had to cancel the tickets because of the pandemic. Now we are feeling safer to travel,” she said on Tuesday.
Tour operators said they were expecting a steep jump in international travel soon after the flight restrictions were lifted by the Centre.
“That will also bring down the fares. Now, because of the lack of seats, the fares are quite high,” said
Anil Punjabi, chairman, east, Travel Agents Federation of India.
The return fare to the UK from Kolkata in March or April is around Rs 80,000, he said. It used to be around Rs 60,000 before the pandemic struck.