Coronavirus outbreak live updates
“All four Bangladeshi airlines operating to Kolkata — Biman Bangladesh, Regent Airways, US-Bangla Airlines and Novo Air — have said that they will suspend scheduled fights to Kolkata from Saturday. Though they may operate a few chartered flights to evacuate Bangladeshi citizens thereafter, there are no plans to resume full-fledged operations before April 15, 2020,” a source at Kolkata airport told TOI.
On Thursday, Biman Bangladesh cancelled flight BG 0096 that was to depart from Kolkata at 9pm.
Indian carriers Air India, IndiGo Airlines and SpiceJet, too, are evaluating the scenario and are expected to announce flight suspension dates shortly. While there will be enough Bangladeshi passengers on Dhaka-bound flights, the airlines aren’t sure if they will get even a dozen passengers on return flights after India announced the cancellation of all visas.
Bangladeshis comprise more than a quarter of international arrivals at Kolkata airport. While 60% of them are patients and their family members, the rest comprise businessmen and holidayers in equal measure. Samshad Alam, who runs a travel agency on Marquis Street, a Bangladeshi enclave in Kolkata, said he has been inundated with requests for flight and bus tickets to Dhaka before services shut down.
Over the next couple of days, other international carriers, including Emirates, Qatar, Etihad, Thai Airways, AirAsia, Singapore Airlines and Sri Lankan Airlines are expected to reduce frequency of services to Kolkata and other cities in India and, thereafter, stop altogether. An airport official said skeletal services to Bangkok and Dubai are likely to remain Kolkata’s tenuous link with the outside world when India isolates itself in a bid to stop the spread of Covid-19.
“It will take time for airlines to come to terms with the situation and announce a response. The operations team in each airline is at the desk, working on a tentative date when demand will taper. Once traffic load reduces below the threshold, the flights will be suspended,” said an official of a private carrier.
For the travel trade fraternity, the lockdown move after similar advisories were issued by China, South Korea, Italy, Kuwait, Qatar and Bhutan has turned the situation worse. On Thursday, travel agents in the city received incessant calls, many of them to cancel future travel plans. There were also several calls from those already on trips who required urgent clarification after the lockdown order.
“From Indians who are abroad to Indians who live abroad and are now here, as well as foreigners in India, everyone is confused about what to do. There are those who want to return and want to know if they will be quarantined when they reach and there are those who have left for abroad and are worried if they can be quarantined before they reach their destination. Given the fluidity of the situation and new advisories being issued by countries daily, it is difficult to say anything with certainty,” said AR-ES Travels managing director Anil Punjabi.