India’s accelerated vaccination drive, as well as pent-up demand, has triggered a recovery in leisure air travel, said Tata-SIA airline Vistara. The travel trend, which includes the VFR category, is still in a nascent stage but is expected to sustain. In an interaction with IANS, Vistara’s Chief Commercial Officer, Vinod Kannan, said the airline remains optimistic about the future.
“We understand that people have held back their travel plans due to various reasons like travel restrictions, rapid spread of the virus in the second wave etc., and going by the trend, we hope they will resume travelling as soon as the situation gets stabilised. In fact, we are noticing some level of recovery in VFR and leisure travel."
On corporate travel trend, he said a complete rebound is unlikely until more of the global population is fully vaccinated.
“Corporates are already trying their best to vaccinate their staff. International travel to client locations is also inhibited to ensure that the employees are not stuck under quarantine in different countries abroad. However, we feel this is temporary.
“The number of trips may be fewer compared to pre-Covid levels; however, they will not completely stop. Virtual meetings cannot completely replace physical interactions; hence, we are positive that corporate traffic will also pick up slowly," Kannan said.
At present, the sector faces its most challenging time with high cost of business, fluctuating demand and looming uncertainties.
However, the country’s vaccination drive has instilled confidence in the travelling population.
“Vaccination being the only known way to fight the pandemic, it is definitely expected to have an impact across all aspects of our lives, including aviation," Kannan said.
Besides, he expects ‘vaccine passports’ to become a key requirement for the future of global travel.
“We feel that some level of relaxation can be offered to fully vaccinated travellers for ease of movement," he said.
According to the recent figures gathered by IATA, more than 20 countries have partially or entirely lifted their entry restrictions for those vaccinated against Covid-19.
This is being seen as an indication for the revival of international travel. Furthermore, he said that the airline plans to start long-haul operations to the US in the coming months.
“We have initiated the process with the relevant authorities and have already received a temporary ‘Foreign Air Carrier’ permit from the Department of Transportation, US.
“We continue to monitor the market and evaluate more such opportunities from both from the commercial viability and feasibility of operations point of view," Kannan said.
Lately, the airline has expanded its international network under the ‘air bubble’ agreements.
In this period, eight international destinations, including London, Dhaka, Dubai, Doha, Frankfurt, Sharjah, Male and Tokyo, were added.