Airlines Add Flights Out of Ravaged India to Bring Citizens Home

International and domestic airlines are adding flights out of India to bring home residents and citizens as the nation’s coronavirus outbreak goes from bad to worse.

Air India Ltd. plans to increase its weekly frequency of flights to the U.S. to 32 starting May 11, up from the current 29. That compares with about 33 weekly flights before Covid. Korean Air Lines Co. and Asiana Airlines Inc. meanwhile are planning to charter flights from India to help South Koreans there wanting to return. Both carriers, which had previously halted all scheduled services to the South Asian nation because of the pandemic, are working with regulators to finalize the flights’ details.

India now has the world’s fastest-growing Covid caseload with 18.8 million confirmed instances. The nation set another record Friday with 386,452 additional cases. Deaths rose by 3,498 to 208,330. The political and financial capitals of New Delhi and Mumbai are in lockdown and this week, the U.S. told its citizens to get out of India as soon as possible.

The ferocious surge in new cases has also reversed one of the airline industry’s biggest travel comebacks. Carriers in India had reached 87% of their pre-pandemic seat capacity through early April, based on a Bloomberg analysis of data from flight tracker OAG, but that progress has now unraveled led by a pullback in domestic flights, which make up the vast majority of the market.

As the outbreak overwhelms the nation’s hospitals and crematoriums, an upturn in air travel won’t happen until the latest crisis is contained, Rob Morris, the head of consultancy at U.K. aviation advisory firm Cirium, said earlier this week.

The U.S. released a Level 4 travel advisory, the highest of its kind issued by the State Department.

“U.S. citizens are reporting being denied admittance to hospitals in some cities due to a lack of space,” the website of the U.S. Embassy and Consulates in India said in a health alert. All routine U.S. citizen services and visa services at the U.S. Consulate General Chennai have been canceled.

©2021 Bloomberg L.P.

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