India’s decision to resume e-visas for travellers from the U.K. will primarily boost leisure travel into the country as demand is expected to remain robust for another 12-18 months, according to Virgin Atlantic’s Country Manager, South Asia, Alex McEwan.
“Resumption of e-visas by India is a very significant effort, and is more significant for leisure travel. Passengers were either postponing their travel or booking it and then delaying it [because of visa processing issues], or had to plan travel three to four months in advance. Now, we expect passengers will be much more willing to travel to India,” McEwan told The Hindu.
While India was holding back on visas, travellers from the UK had several options in Europe and the US as visas were easily available for those destinations.
Virgin Atlantic has seen strong demand from India in the recent past, and saw 95% of its seats out of India being sold in September, which was a record for this year and higher than an average 85% seats sold.
The higher passenger load factor or seat occupancy comes even as the airline had tripled its flights out of India since 2019. It now has two daily flights from Delhi to London, and one daily flight from Mumbai to London.
Though international air travel out of India resumed in March this year, demand is expected to remain high for another “12-18 months” to make up for the nearly 48-month long disruption, he said.
On whether airfares could be expected to remain high in 2023 too, the Virgin Atlantic Country Manager said that factors such as aviation turbine fuel, high exchange rates as well as passenger demand dynamics are in a direction where a reduction in fares was unlikely.
The pulling out of Jet Airways since 2019, which was a strong competitor on India-U.K. route, has also led to an increase in airfares despite the growth from other players.
Air India recently announced five additional flights a week to Birmingham, nine additional flights to London and IndiGo too has announced connecting flights to European destinations, including Birmingham and Manchester, with its codeshare partner Turkish Airlines. Vistara, too, had been flying to London since 2020.