The average wait time for an Indian tourist visa to visit the U.S. still stands at 11 months. The State Department needs to do better.
The Skift India Newsletter is your go-to platform for all news related to travel, tourism, airlines, and hospitality in India.
Top U.S. lawmakers have urged the Biden administration to address the visa wait time issue in India on a priority basis. Visa delays are the single biggest impediment to exponential growth in travel between the U.S. and India. The U.S. Consulate’s all-hands-on-deck approach — such as bringing processing staff in on weekends, making embassies available to Indian nationals in other countries and hiring more staff — has reduced the wait times in the country by 50 percent, from an average of 669 days in mid-March to 337 days in early April, according to the U.S. Travel Association.
India is one of the U.S.’s top source markets that are experiencing long visa processing times. Applicants in India had an especially absurd wait time. In January, for example, they had to wait 999 days for an interview at the Mumbai embassy. In another development, U.S. Consul General Mike Hankey said earlier in April that the country also aims to increase visa interview appointments for Indian students by 30 percent. The U.S. embassy processed more than 200,000 visas to India till February this year and aims to process one million visas by 2023-end.
Will India be Aviation’s Next China?
India is the new China as international travel rebounds, Qantas Airways CEO Alan Joyce told Bloomberg TV. “The Chinese market remains very weak at about half the level it was before Covid. We think India has better growth prospects than China for us and we are putting more capacity in,” Joyce said. A 2023 Skift megatrend highlighted how India is set to be the new China in the reordering of travel in Asia. Aviation consultancy and research firm CAPA India predicts that Indian airlines’ 932 aircraft on order excluding Air India’s recently-placed record 470 jet orders — and more large orders expected later this year — is destined for at least as much growth as China’s, which has more than 4,000 aircraft in service. India has already generated Asia’s highest outbound travel volume for the first time in 2022, with foreign trips exceeding those of China, South Korea, and Japan.
Taj Corbett Resort and Spa Unveils Ultra-Luxury Suites
Taj Corbett Resort and Spa in the north Indian state of Uttarakhand has unveiled a collection of 11 suites, in addition to the nine luxury suites already in operation. Each suite boasts floor to ceiling French windows and a private river-facing sit-out space. Located amidst the Himalayan foothills, the resort spans over 11 acres featuring 75 cottage-style rooms. Just last month, Taj-parent Indian Hotels Company reported its highest-ever full year consolidated revenue and a profit after tax of $122 million — a historic first for the company. Last year, having signed 36 new contracts, the company opened 16 hotels and still has almost 73 hotels in the pipeline.
Akasa Air CEO Responds to Price-Gouging
India has one of the best airfare regimes in the world, but there should not be “gouging” in terms of ticket prices to take advantage of a particular situation, according to India’s newest airline Akasa Air CEO Vinay Dube. Explaining gouging as overcharging to take advantage of a particular micro-environmental situation, he pointed out, “The airfares on an average in India are the most customer-friendly in the world in any kind of sizable aviation economy. That is a fact and we have some of the cheapest average fares anywhere in the world.” His comments come against the backdrop of concerns about a steep rise in airfares on certain routes amid capacity reduction due to the Go First crisis and higher travel demand, and the government’s advisory to airlines on devising a mechanism to ensure a reasonable ticket pricing system.
MakeMyTrip Launches Student Offering
For Indian students traveling abroad, online travel company MakeMyTrip has partnered with airlines for extra baggage and competitive student fares; banks for exclusive discounts; and discounted forex cards and travel accessories brands for smart and easy travel solutions. The company has tied up with Air France, Air Mauritius, Cathay Pacific, Emirates, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines, Malaysian Airlines, Sri Lankan Airlines, Thai Airways and Vistara, it said in a release. Students can avail of a flat 12 percent discount, up to $122, along with interest-free equated monthly installment options for three and six months when using American Express, Axis Bank, Citibank, and ICICI debit or credit cards. The plan also offers students online foreign exchange marketplace BookMyForex cards without any service or delivery charges, and an additional 1 percent cashback on the purchase of foreign currency during the offer period.
Steep Rise in Unruly Flyers
One unruly passenger incident was reported for every 568 flights last year compared to one such incident per 835 flights in 2021, global aviation body International Air Transport Association stated in a release. Earlier in April, Indian aviation watchdog Directorate General of Civil Aviation issued an advisory to all airlines on sensitizing pilots, cabin crew and post-holders to handle unruly passengers onboard flights. The advisory came in the wake of a London-bound Air India flight returning to Delhi airport following a mid-air brawl in which a passenger caused “physical harm” to cabin crew members. Again last month, a male passenger onboard the Tata Group-owned carrier from coastal state Goa to national capital Delhi physically assaulted a crew member. Another flyer was detained at Bengaluru airport in the south Indian state of Karnataka earlier last month for smoking mid-air on an Akasa Air flight from Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat.
SpiceJet, FTAI Aviation Partner to Restore Fleet
Budget carrier SpiceJet has partnered with U.S.-based engine services provider FTAI Aviation to reactivate some of its grounded fleet over the next two-three months. FTAI plans to lease up to 20 engines, the first few of which the low-cost carrier would use to restore its fleet. The partnership “will reduce maintenance expenses and minimize aircraft downtime, enhancing the airline’s overall performance,” the airline said in a statement. Last month, SpiceJet said it had begun to revive 25 of its grounded fleet with the $50 million funds it received from the government’s Emergency Credit Line Guarantee Scheme and internal cash accruals.
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Photo credit: India is one of the U.S.’s top source markets that are experiencing long visa processing times. Henry Thong / Unsplash