This summer is turning out to be one of the worst travel seasons of the decade. With the third round of volcanic ash clouds affecting flights to and from London and parts of Europe on Monday, the travel industry is comparing the summer to that of 2003 when Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome grounded travel for two months.
“Every second day a new problem crops up. It’s difficult to ascertain losses,” said Ajay Prakash, general secretary, Travel Agents Federation of India.
The volcanic ash effect has ruled out Europe as a holiday destination. Worse, British Airways staff has called a strike from Monday night.
On Monday, Air India and Kingfisher cancelled flights to London; Jet Airways and British Airways operated a flight each.
With limited options, some are looking for destinations near home. Prithwish Mohanty, a senior executive says “Sri Lanka is better than doing a domestic holiday.”
This leaves Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong. But they are not hot enough to draw visitors as Indians frequent these destinations on long weekends, claim travel managers.
Indians stuck in Europe are making desperate attempts to get back home. Passengers on cruises are flying directly to Mumbai from other European cities. “The anxiety level is so high that people are ready to spend up to Rs 30,000 for a ticket from Athens to Mumbai instead of catching a flight from London,” said Anup Kanuga, owner of Bhatija Travels.