Published on July 12, 2021

AHMEDABAD: Parents of Chetan Khatri (name changed), a Ghatlodia resident, were in for a shock when they started checking the availability of flights to Canada. “I have got admission in a PG diploma course for business management at a reputable university in Canada for the Fall semester (starting from September). I need to be there by the last week of August,” said Khatri.

He has the entire course fees of Rs 20 lakh whereas the current one-way airfare by airline carriers is Rs 1.75 lakh to Rs 2 lakh – accounting to 10% of the total course fees.

“The tickets were costing between Rs 50,000 and Rs 70,000 in January this year. While it was still costly, we justified it due to the prevailing Covid conditions. But air fares rising three times is too much when the majority of the passengers during this time are only foreign-bound students,” said Khatri’s father. “As he has already secured the admission, we would have no option but to shell out the money, but it is not fair,” the father felt.

It’s not just students – even the regular passengers are also bearing the brunt. Naranpura resident Subhash Ghonchala said that a one-way ticket for his daughter-in-law from Ahmedabad to reach Toronto, Canada on July 5 cost Rs 1.77 lakh which was three times the conventional ticket price of average Rs 70,000.

“More than the money, she and her small baby had to go to Toronato via Belgrade in Serbia where there was a mandatory stay of 2 nights and one day to get the RT-PCR test done. So, she went from Ahmedabad to Toronto via Mumbai-Frankfurt-Belgrade-Frankfurt- Toronto,” said Ghonchala.

Sanket Patel (name changed), 21, said that he had deferred his travel to Canada due to the second wave in May. “My visa expires in December. While I’ll still wait for a month to get the economic deal, what if the third wave starts or Canada changes its rules? There’s a strong buzz that there would be relaxation in some categories announced in the last week of July, but it’s always a gamble,” he said. “Getting the visa was a great feeling, but it’s now turning into desperation.”

Travel and visa consultant Sabina Advani said that Covid-19 specific sanctions imposed by various countries have pushed the travel duration and cost of travellers, especially students.

“Countries like Canada do not accept Indian RT-PCR reports mandating travel via third countries for RT-PCR reports. For the US, currently there is a 14-day quarantine in a third country hotel. We are hopeful of Maldives and Dubai opening post July 15 which would be preferred by Indian travellers due to easy availability of Indian food,” says Advani.

Due to these rules, travellers are going via Mexico, Belgrade and Armenia currently where 14-day quarantine stay with meals pushes the ticket price to upwards of Rs 1.75 lakh on confirmed flights.

Sameer Yadav, a city-based student visa and immigration consultant, said that there are a few sites offering cheaper tickets. “But often the travelers are not going for it – the chances of cancellation of flights are high. Currently there are no direct flights to Canada due to Covid regulations, and most are taking detours. While the cancellation amount comes back, it cannot help the students who have to reach Canada in a time-bound manner,” he said. “There are no less than 10 students with me who are waiting for the availability of tickets to reach Canada any time soon.”

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