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The New Normal

International flyers suffer as pandemic sparks schedule changes

Disruptions hit flights from Kolkata to destinations such as Dubai, Doha, London and Dhaka

Sanjay Mandal | Published 25.09.21, 07:56 AM
The empty departure area of the international airport

The empty departure area of the international airport

Amit Datta/My Kolkata

Many international passengers are facing uncertainties because of last-minute changes to flight schedules because of the Covid pandemic.

Several of them have had their tickets cancelled recently because the airlines, after opening bookings for October, informed them that the flights were cancelled on those dates after getting the fresh schedule from the governments of both countries.

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International flights are operating under air bubble agreements because of the pandemic. Air transport bubbles are temporary arrangements between two countries to keep commercial services running at a time regular international flights are suspended as a precaution against Covid.

Flights are leaving Kolkata for various destinations such as Dubai, Doha, London and Dhaka.

However, officials of several airlines and tour operators said there were often confusions about schedules because they were not sure whether the permissions would be available for more slots when the agreements were getting renewed between India and another country.

Also, tour operators said, international airlines are cancelling certain flights because of low passenger count. 

A south Kolkata resident now living in Dubai has come to Kolkata to visit his family and had booked a return ticket on October 11.

“The airline told me that the flight was cancelled and the next available flight on which they would accommodate me was on October 17,” said the man.

A Salt Lake resident now based in Dubai had booked her return ticket on October 7.

“Later, an airline employee told me that the flight was operating three days a week and Thursday was not on the list. So I had to rebook,” she said. “I am taking my elderly parents with me and hoping there is no further cancellation.”

Tour operators said they were warning passengers about possible cancellations before booking tickets on international flights.

“We are telling passengers to be mentally prepared for possible rescheduling. Many people who need to travel are holding their bookings. For Puja travels most of the bookings are for the domestic sector because of this confusion,” said Anil Punjabi, chairman, east, Travel Agents Federation of India.

Dhakuria resident Salil Bose and his wife Rita had planned to visit their daughter in Canada’s Toronto.

“We had heard that flights between India and Canada have resumed. But our tour operator said it was yet to be confirmed. We are hearing about frequent changes to flight schedules and so decided to defer our visit till March,” said Bose, a retired engineer.

An official of Biman Bangladesh said they were also suggesting people who wanted to book return tickets next month to buy one-way tickets or wait till the new schedule was available for November.

“We are not opening inventory for November until we are getting a fresh approval from both governments. In August, there was a plan to start flights but approval did not come. We had opened the inventory and had to refund money to many passengers. Also, we rescheduled bookings without any additional charges,” said Kaushik Neogy, sales manager, east of Biman Bangladesh.

Last updated on 25.09.21, 09:11 AM
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