UK flight ban: Stranded travellers from Maharashtra, other states worried

India announced a temporary ban on flights to and from the United Kingdom (UK) on Monday, leaving many Indian travellers in UK are worried about returning home. The ministry of civil aviation said all flights to and from UK would be suspended from December 22 to December 31.

Last week, a new and more infections strain of Covid-19 was discovered in UK. At a press conference on Sunday, British Prime Minister Boris Johnson announced that London and surrounding areas would come under strict lockdown, following which many countries banned flights and ferries to and from UK in an effort to restrict the spread of the new strain. On Monday, the Union ministry of civil aviation temporarily banned flights between India and UK. International flights had recently resumed on certain routes under the Indian government’s air bubble scheme.

Norman Schofield, a Pune resident whose 25-year-old son is in Birmingham said, “My son, who has travelled abroad for the first time, has been there from November to explore universities for higher studies. We had booked his return ticket [on Air India] for December 29 from London to Mumbai, on Monday. As parents, we are worried for him as he is all by himself. If severe lockdown is imposed, it will be difficult to stay longer.” Schofield said the airline’s call centre has not been able to help them change the date of travel.

Delhi-based film producer Sudhanshu Pandey is in London at the moment. “I have been here since November and was booked to fly to Delhi on December 28, but due to the announcement by the Indian government, I am willing to fly back to India on Wednesday itself,” he said.

Film industry professional Dipesh Patel said, “I am in charge of the 80 [member] crew who travelled with me and we were to return this week. While most of us hail from Mumbai, a few belong to Delhi and Kolkata. We do not wish to wait until December 31 as we fear that this suspension of flights may be further extended.”

Despite these concerns, experts say the temporary ban on flights to and from the UK will have a negligible impact on tourist traffic. “Due to the current environment and quarantine rules, off-season tourism to UK in any case had not picked up.We foresee an increase in international tourism only in the summer of 2021, with normalcy [expected] by winter of 2021,” said Nishant Pitti, founder of online travel company EaseMyTrip. “We’re seeing faster growth and demand for domestic tourism, especially when international options are limited. Travellers are aspiring to travel and take a break and the focus will be on Indian destinations,” he added.

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