Why There Are No Direct Flights Connecting India and China 

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Skift Take

Not only are there no China-India direct flights, Chinese nationals have also reported facing difficulties while applying for an Indian visa.

This week on the Skift India Travel Podcast, Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia and India Reporter Bulbul Dhawan delve into the significant decline in India-China flight connectivity since December 2019: There had been 539 direct passenger flights – and now there are none.

It’s a sharp contrast with India’s connectivity to the Middle East. That’s thriving, with ambitious tourism targets from countries like Saudi Arabia, UAE, Oman, and Qatar.

Also discussed is the growing importance of India as a key tourism source market for the U.S. and financial technology company Paytm’s strategic moves to enhance its travel offerings through partnerships with travel aggregators and airlines.

Key Points

Suspension of Flights Between India and China: Pre-Covid, there were 539 direct flights between India and China. Now, zero. The suspension was triggered by Covid, and exacerbated by 2020 border tensions. It has real impact on travel time and costs: Pre-2020, direct flights were 6 hours and $350-$550; now they’re 10.5+ hours and $650-$1,280.

India-Middle East Connectivity: Contrasts with India-China, highly lucrative short-haul market. Middle Eastern countries set ambitious tourism targets. Easier visa processes and direct connectivity boost travel.

India as a Key Tourism Source Market: Rising economic prosperity, large population, and growing disposable income drive outbound tourism. Significant growth in Indian travelers to the U.S., with 1.7 million visitors in 2023, expected to rise. Visa wait times to the U.S. remain long, over 300 days from many Indian cities. The U.S. government is working to address delays.

Paytm’s Travel Segment Expansion: Partnership with Skyscanner, Google Flights, Wego. Successful quarter for flight bookings, notable growth in market share among OTAs. Introduction of new features like free cancellation service.

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Episode Summary

In this episode, we delve into the complexities surrounding India-China flight connectivity, exploring how the suspension of direct flights since 2020 has impacted business travel and personal experiences. The pre-COVID era saw 539 direct flights between the two nations, a stark contrast to the current scenario where travelers face increased costs and extended travel times due to detours through third countries.

The episode highlights the broader impact on business travelers, who now deal with significantly higher travel expenses and longer durations. Personal anecdotes underscore these challenges, with examples like the Kunming to Kolkata route now taking thrice as long as it did in 2016.

Shifting focus, the discussion contrasts this situation with the robust India-Middle East connectivity, driven by ambitious tourism targets and facilitated by easier visa processes and direct flights. This underscores India’s importance as a tourism source market, bolstered by its rising economic prosperity and demographic advantages.

Further, we examine the growing influx of Indian travelers to the U.S., despite visa processing delays. This segment emphasizes the need for streamlined visa processes to support the increasing demand for international travel.

Finally, we explore Paytm’s strategic move to enhance its travel offerings through partnerships with major travel aggregators. This expansion is part of Paytm’s broader vision to leverage technology for business growth, marking its significant strides in the travel industry with innovations like the free cancellation service.

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