December 18, 2021 Charanjit Singh

Major setback to International Air Connectivity: Qatar Airways suspends booking of Amritsar – Doha flights

Amritsar/Dayton (USA)/Vancouver (Canada) December 18, 2021: The FlyAmritsar Initiative has expressed deep concerns regarding the suspension of #Qatar Airways flights from Doha to Amritsar. In a joint press release, the Global Convener of FlyAmritsar Initiative Sameep Singh Gumtala & Convenor (North America) Anant Dhillon said that the cancellation of flights by the airline till the end of March 2022 is a major setback to the international connectivity from Sri Guru Ram Dass Jee International Airport Amritsar, as it is the only flagship foreign international airline carrier providing convenient connectivity with destinations in Europe, North America and other destinations around the World.

Qatar Airways Photo by Saif Zaman ( আয়ান )

Gumtala said, “Passengers prefer to fly direct from Amritsar to international destinations via Doha due to many factors including the convenience of getting immigration, luggage drop-off/pick-up, customs etc. all being done at Amritsar. Now they have no other choice left for them except to fly to Delhi. Also, these are geographical direct routes to the West and airline also provide them with shorter connection timings at Doha as compared to flights via Delhi.”

They further added while the operation of scheduled international flights to India remains suspended by the Government of India until 31st January 2022, the airline was operating 3-weekly flights under air bubble agreements signed by India with over 33 countries. The frequency was reduced to only 2-weekly flights for November and December. Now, all of a sudden, thousands of passengers got cancellation notices for all flights after December 18. Many of them who booked directly with the airline after contacting them are given the option to fly via Delhi or get a refund for their tickets. They are being told that due to air-bubble limitations, the airline is suspending its flights from Amritsar.

Qatar Airport

Photo by Francesco Patrinostro

The never-ending air bubble agreements are hurting international connectivity and causing great inconvenience to travelers from the region as they also limit foreign airlines to transit passengers via its hubs. Qatar Airways has been serving Amritsar for more than 12 years now with this airline providing shorter connection timings in Doha to connect with the world as compared to flights via Delhi.

If Indian carriers are not willing to operate direct flights from Amritsar to more international destinations, instead of limiting flights for foreign airlines, the government should allow them to operate directly to Amritsar This will provide direct international air connectivity instead of facing the inconvenience of traveling from Delhi. This will help decongest Delhi airport and also reduce the risk of the spread of COVID-19. Moreover, it will generate more revenue for the airport running under the Airport Authority of India, said Gumtala.

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