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Wednesday, December 02, 2020

Europe lockdowns likely to hit demand, airlines plan flight cancellations

The UK is expected to enter a nearly month-long lockdown from November 5.

Written by Pranav Mukul | New Delhi | November 4, 2020 12:54:21 am

With at least four European countries including the UK, France, Germany and Belgium re-imposing lockdowns to contain the spread of coronavirus in their jurisdictions, travel plans of those flying between India and these countries are expected to be disrupted over the next few months. While Vistara will temporarily reduce the frequency of its flights between Delhi and London to thrice a week from four times a week currently, airlines like Air France, British Airways and Virgin Atlantic are learnt to be monitoring the demand situation. Those, like Lufthansa, though, plan to stick to their India flight schedule despite the local lockdown.

A senior official at Vistara said that the airline had reached out to its sales agents and local staff in the UK to assess the demand situation to arrive at a decision on the frequency of the flights during the UK’s lockdown period. The airline, which currently operates four flights a week between Delhi and London had plans to increase the frequency to five times a week from November 21 and seven times a week from December 1.

“In view of reduced demand amidst the second, countrywide lockdown in the UK, we have made temporary, ad-hoc changes to our schedule of flights to and from London Heathrow between November 9, 2020 and December 1, 2020. During this period, Vistara will operate thrice a week between Delhi and London on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. Passengers with affected bookings are being contacted and provided options,” a Vistara spokesperson told The Indian Express.

A senior government source said that the Civil Aviation Ministry was studying the situation of the various lockdowns being announced in the European countries, but so far no official decision has been taken that would impact the air bubble arrangements.

Lufthansa, which operates 10 weekly flights between India and Germany, said it plans to continue operating these flights. Air France has said it has taken a note of the lockdown in France and will be updating its schedule accordingly.

France entered a fresh lockdown starting Friday, October 30 on account of resurgence of Covid-19 cases in the country. Germany, too, entered a partial month-long lockdown starting Monday with several public places like restaurants and bars being asked to close. Similarly, the UK is expected to enter a nearly month-long lockdown from November 5 lasting till December 2.

Notably, for all of these three nations, with which India has air-bubble arrangements, there are no restrictions on travel corridor flights, which means that flights operating from India by carriers such as Air India, Vistara, Lufthansa, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, and Air France have not been restricted. However, various airlines have announced cancellation of flights given the fall in demand as a result of the lockdowns. The flights that have been cancelled are both within Europe as well as international.

In response to an e-mail query, a spokesperson for the UK’s flag carrier British Airways said: “We note the British Prime Minister’s announcement of a new national lockdown for England to slow the spread of Covid-19. Like other businesses, we are assessing the new information and we will keep our customers updated on any changes to their travel plans”.

Speaking to The Indian Express, Alex McEwan, country manger India, Virgin Atlantic said: “We’re aware of the latest guidance issued by UK government, that from 5th November, UK nationals should avoid all non-essential travel. We are currently evaluating what this means for our customers and flying programme. At present, our schedule remains as published on our website, however our teams will be in contact with any customers whose travel may be affected, to discuss their options”.

In addition to operating flights, from London to Delhi and Mumbai, Virgin Atlantic has announced routes from Mumbai and Delhi to Manchester beginning December 20 and January 6, respectively.

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