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Bengal restricts flight from Delhi, Mumbai, fares may go up

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Kolkata, Jan 2 (PTI) The West Bengal government on Sunday said that it would restrict flights from New Delhi and Mumbai, the two cities witnessing the largest surge in Covid-19 infections in recent weeks, to just twice a week in a measure to combat the spread of the pandemic in the state.

Travel agents believe this will cause a spike in air fares besides placing many fliers’ travel plans in jeopardy.

West Bengal chief secretary HK Dwivedi said that starting January 5 flights from these two metros will be allowed only on Mondays and Fridays till a decision is taken after reviewing the pandemic situation.

The top state bureaucrat also said that from Monday the government has decided to temporarily suspend direct flights from the UK where Omicron variant of the coronavirus is creating new records infecting thousands, as a part of its restriction programmes.

“Flights from New Delhi and Mumbai will ply only twice a week. As a part of the restrictions, flights from these two places will be allowed to come to Bengal only on Mondays and Fridays,” Dwivedi said while holding a virtual press conference on Sunday.

Dwivedi said that rapid antigen tests have been made “mandatory” for passengers coming from non-at risk countries.

“We have temporarily suspended flights from the UK. And for passengers coming from other non-risk countries, we have made rapid antigen tests mandatory. If found positive then the concerned person will have to undergo RTPCR tests. This will come into force from tomorrow,” he said.

The Bengal government had on Thursday sent a letter to the union aviation ministry regarding its decision on temporarily suspending direct flights from the UK. Calcutta has only one, once a week flight connection with the UK which is operated by Air India.

Travel agents said the sudden decision would mean a spike in ticket prices. Krishna Ghosh, director of a Delhi-based travel firm GlobeAir, said “prices on the Delhi-Calcutta route average about Rs 6,000 one way now, this is sure to escalate to over Rs 10,000 one way.” Eastern India Chairman of Travel Agents of India (TAFI) Anil Punjabi said the government should bring in testing of all domestic sector passengers on arrival.

Airport officials, who did not wish to be named, said the government’s decision would only add to the woes of the passengers planning to fly to the state from these two metropolises.

“It will be a problem for all those passengers who already have their tickets to come to Bengal from New Delhi and Mumbai. Either they have to take another route to come here or reschedule their itinerary,” the official told PTI.

Travel agents said many of those coming to Kolkata from abroad anyway routed their flight schedules through other cities and added “domestic fliers too would follow suit.” The Chief Secretary however, said that there is no ban on passengers from the UK to enter the state through other corridors using other means of travelling.

“They can take other routes (domestic flights or trains) to come to Bengal,” he said. PTI SCH SBM JRC JRC

This report is auto-generated from PTI news service. ThePrint holds no responsibility for its content.

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