VIPs have reportedly spent more than £100,000 chartering nine-hour private jet flights to London, amid a rush for regular tickets out of crisis-hit country
With countries around the world banning flights from India amid concerns about the new coronavirus variants believed to be fuelling the current outbreak, the price of tickets to destinations still accepting travellers has skyrocketed.
Last week, a rush to reach the UK before it added India to a list of “red list” countries requiring hotel quarantine saw at least eight private jets chartered to make the nine-hour journey, according to The Times. It said the planes were believed to have cost up to £100,000 each to charter, and that one arrived in Britain just 45 minutes before the red list deadline.
“We are restricted by the number of flights we’re allowed to operate between the UK and India so unfortunately we’re unable to increase our flight or seat capacity,” said a spokesman from Virgin Atlantic, when asked about responding to the extraordinary demand.
The UK announced it was adding India to its travel “red list” on 19 April, giving four days’ notice. After 4am on 23 April, only UK residents and citizens would be able to make the journey from India, and would be subject to hotel quarantine.
It came after health secretary Matt Hancock said 103 Covid cases of the Indian variant had been found in the UK, largely related to travel, and just after Boris Johnson cancelled a visit to India.
Other countries that have limited travel from India include France, the UAE, Indonesia, the US, Hong Kong, Singapore, Canada, the Maldives and Australia.
According to the Economic Times, a spokesman from the private Air Charter Service in India said on Saturday that the amount of interest in international flights was “absolutely crazy.”
“We have 12 flights going to Dubai tomorrow and each flight is completely full,” he said.
“I’ve fielded almost 80 enquiries for flying to Dubai today alone,” a spokesman for Enthral Aviation told AFP.
“We have requested more aircraft from abroad to meet the demand. It costs £27,337 to hire a 13-seater jet from Mumbai to Dubai and £22,301 to hire a six-seater aircraft.”
On Monday morning, India reported more than 352,000 new Covid cases, setting another record for daily infections for the fifth day in a row.
Several Bollywood stars and celebrities have faced online criticism for holidaying abroad while the country is facing an unprecedented crisis.
Alia Bhatt, Ranbir Kapoor, Disha Patani and Tiger Shroff were among those seen relaxing in the Maldives in the past week, and according to the Hindustan Times the four were seen arriving back in Mumbai on Sunday.
One user wrote about Shroff on Twitter: “He is asking us (common people) to understand the situation and stay at home while he is vacationing in Maldives!!”