NEW DELHI: Air India is doubling its highly popular US nonstop flights from August 7 as a large number of Indians head to universities this fall. It had reduced the number of weekly flights from about 40 to under 10 ever since the catastrophic second Covid-19 wave in India saw US imposing restrictions on travellers from the subcontinent starting May 4.
Now, the airline will operate at least 21 flights per week to the US, with the maximum increase in New York (JFK and Newark or EWR) flights followed by Chicago and San Francisco, as per people in the know. United, the only other airline with nonstops between the two countries, is not altering India flight frequency for now.
“Flights to USA had to be curtailed after the US Presidential Proclamation restricting air traffic from India. Flights were combined and rescheduled, affecting travel itinerary for some. Frequency to US has now been enhanced from August and all out efforts to accommodate passengers is on,” Air India said on social media.
Before May 4, the air bubble requirement for a majority of travellers between India and US to fly direct saw AI operating almost as many flights to America as it did during pre-pandemic times. Then, the May 4 restrictions meant there were very few eligible to fly from here to the US and the reduced demand led to AI slashing flights.
While US is yet to lift restrictions imposed during the second wave on travellers from India, the student admission season has led to a surge in demand — first for visa applications that saw the embassy portal crashing when it opened mid-July and now for flights.
The fall admission season is leading to a huge rush for visa applications for other countries, too, such as Germany and Canada. Not disclosing any estimates of pending applications, a VFS spokesperson had told the
Times of India last week that “considering the coming months coinciding with the opening of universities, we are experiencing a high number of students desirous of pursuing admission overseas.”
Sources say some countries like Canada are looking at having a priority system for student visa applicants. Others like Germany are trying to work with VFS on how to clear the backlog as expeditiously as possible.
“Met senior VFS Global partners to discuss current gradual restart of visa services after lifting of travel ban and ways to speed up process. Due to ongoing Covid repercussions and precaution measures not all applications can be processed immediately, please continue to be patient,” Walter J Linder, German ambassador to India, had tweeted last Thursday (July 22).
The United States has allowed Indian students who have enrolled for classes in universities there to enter the country. “Students with valid F-1 or M-1 visas intending to begin or continue academic studies beginning August 1, 2021, or later may enter the United States up to 30 days prior to the start of their studies,” the US embassy’s website states.