Anticipating further restrictions between India and the US due to the new variant of the coronavirus, airfares and bookings for the next fortnight have skyrocketed.

A quick search on Google shows that flights between Indian metro cities like Mumbai and Delhi to major destinations like New York range anywhere between ₹1.35 lakh and ₹1.63 lakh for a round trip between December 2 and December 13.

Omicron Covid variant impact: Travel industry in ‘wait-and-watch’ mode

For example, an economy seat on a Bangalore-San Fransisco flight on the same dates ranges from ₹1.75 lakh to ₹2.82 lakh for a round trip whereas a business class flight could cost one close to ₹5.6 lakh. The flights seem to be sold out till December 15 too.

On the one hand, for December, EaseMyTrip has seen a 70 per cent spike in airfare on its site for flights to and from the US, Thomas Cook India has recorded a 100 per cent hike in airfares between December 1 to December 15.

According to both companies, limited capacity and high demand are the reasons for the airfare hike.

Indiver Rastogi, President and Group Head, Global Business Travel at Thomas Cook (India) and SOTC, added that the roll-back on the reopening of scheduled international flights (earlier planned for Dec 15th) is an added pressure.

Along with this, “Given bilateral restrictions, European carriers are not permitted operations to the USA and this limits supply to Gulf carriers, United and Air India, thereby resulting in high pricing.”

Data from Thomas Cook shows that a Mumbai/Delhi-New York return trip is currently at ₹2.46 lakh versus ₹1.10 lakh if booked 10 days earlier; Mumbai/Delhi-San Francisco return is now at ₹3.27 lakh from ₹1.20 lakh earlier.

Demand is pronounced from India’s metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Bengaluru, Chennai and Kolkata where current rates reflect a steep increase of over 4x, Rastogi explained.

WHO caution on Omicron

It was only on November 8 this year that the US eased its country-specific travel bans dating back to the opening weeks of the 2020 pandemic. However, the World Health Organization (WHO) has now warned that the Omicron coronavirus variant poses a high risk of infection surges around the globe.

‘Vax mandate may work better against Omicron Covid variant risk than travel ban’

The newest travel ban went into effect on November 29, 2021, per a White House Proclamation for 14 days. It is anticipated that the US government could soon seal its borders on international travel, sending jitters among travellers to get back to their base.

Economy fare from Delhi/Bangalore to San Francisco for December 12 was over $6,000 late last night, with barely any seat. Biz class $18,000!! This is the case for most airlines that had seats. Zero availability on airlines like Emirates. However, from December 13 onwards, fares are back to normal or even lower (which is what suggests that people expect the US to close borders from December13).