Coronavirus fears leads to a drastic fall in passenger count on domestic flights
The detection of coronavirus cases in India has led to a drastic fall in passenger count on domestic flights, particularly to metro cities, officials of several airlines said on Thursday.
Airlines reported heavy cancellations on domestic flights in the past couple of days, sources in at least three airlines said.
A group of Calcuttans now based in the US had come to the city a few days ago to attend a wedding. They were scheduled to fly to Delhi on Friday before returning to the US. “But we decided to put our travel plans on hold and cancelled the tickets,” said Kumar Wadhwa, a member of the group.
“Around 30 to 35 per cent domestic bookings from Calcutta have been cancelled, particularly on flights to other big cities such as Delhi,” an official of a low-cost airline said.
SpiceJet sources said a Calcutta-Delhi flight with a capacity of 180 would usually have 170 to 175 passengers but the number has dipped over the past two days.
Several international flights from Calcutta to destinations such as China, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Thailand have been either suspended or their frequencies reduced since February because of low passenger count after the coronavirus outbreak in China.
“Suspension of flights is immediately not possible in the domestic sector because of technical reasons,” a source in IndiGo said. “One aircraft does several connecting sectors. So, if we withdraw one flight between Delhi and Calcutta, for example, it would affect other connecting routes from Calcutta.”
A SpiceJet official, however, said if the cancellations continued, the airline would have to rework networks and cut down frequencies.
Air India did not report any bulk cancellations till Thursday, an airline official said, adding that it could be because of the Holi rush.
The travel industry is also feeling the impact of the coronavirus scare, tour operators said.
“This is the time when people start making holiday bookings for summer. We were not expecting too many international bookings this time but were hopeful about domestic destinations. However, with domestic travel being affected, the travel industry is having one of its worst times,” said Anil Punjabi, chairman, east, Travel Agents Federation of India.
Low fares have also failed to woo passengers. “People are not ready to travel even if the fare is low. So most airlines are holding onto their normal fares,” he said.