**Update: 03/16/20 @ 15:29 UTC – India has banned all travellers from EU countries, the UK, Iceland, Switzerland, Norway, Lichtenstein, and Turkey. Any passengers arriving or transiting from UAE, Qatar, Oman, and Kuwait will be subject to a mandatory 14-day quarantine. According to sources, this ban includes Indian citizens residing in these countries. These measures will come into effect from 1200 GMT on 18th March until at least 31st March.**
In a drastic measure to control the coronavirus, India has suspended all visas with effect from this Friday, March 13th. India has also issued new mandatory quarantines for nationals returning from some European countries. The news comes as the World Health Organisation declared the virus a global pandemic, with cases rising every day. The visa suspension is in effect till April 15th, however, we could see this change, depending on the situation.
The impact of the virus continues
The visa suspension comes as India experiences a sharp rise in cases of the virus in the last week or so. The blanket suspension extends to Overseas Citizens of India (OCI); persons of Indian origin who are authorized to live and work in India.
India has also ordered all citizens returning from China, Italy, Iran, Korea, France, Spain, and Germany to be quarantined for at least 14 days. The government has advised against any non-essential travel and said that any returning travelers may be subject to quarantine.
The new rules will definitely have an impact on the country’s aviation and tourism sector. The next 24 hours might see travelers planning to come to India moving up flights to arrive prior to the Friday 12:00 GMT deadline. Many travelers returning to India could see themselves quarantined and tested for the virus.
The government has previously ordered all passengers to be screened when they arrive in India. The screening has caused enormous queues at airports and packed spaces. Passengers have complained online of seven-hour queues and being forced into close proximity to hundreds of travelers. The tweet below contains an image of the situation at Delhi’s international airport.
— Tarun Shukla (@shukla_tarun) March 9, 2020
Airlines set to take huge hits
IndiGo issued a statement last night saying it has seen a 15-20% drop in daily bookings over the last few days and will see its earnings “materially impacted” for the first quarter. The drop in bookings means that IndiGo’s offer of free rescheduling has not calmed travelers’ nerves enough, an offer which many others have made too. The announcement from India’s leading carrier means that other airlines are suffering the same, if not more.
India’s new visa order is set to further drive down demand for international travel. With effectively no foreigners allowed into the country, we could see airlines cutting routes and trimming cost in the coming weeks. The rules could also affect the upcoming sale of Air India and has likely doomed Jet Airways. Air India, SpiceJet, and IndiGo have already suspended their services to Hong Kong and China. Air India has also reduced frequency on a number of its routes, including Tokyo, Seoul and Milan.
The new visa rules will mean a significant reduction of travelers to India in the coming months. The move will cause airlines to see further lowered demand and a deepening of their losses. The spread of the virus in India will likely see airlines take measures to cut costs and reduces routes, a process which has already begun.
The global aviation market is suffering its worst downturn since the financial crisis, with overall demand falling sharply. With carriers like Korean Air fighting for survival and others like Flybe having folded, we could see more airlines in dire straits.