A British High Commission spokesperson in India said that around 5,00,000 Indians received visas to travel to UK during calender year 2018 – which is more than 10 per cent compared to previous years. One major attraction for the Indians is the cool climes of London and the other is the starting of the cricket world in London on May 30. The High Commission in India estimates as many as 80,000 Indian fans will travel to the UK to watch the tournament this month-end, a figure corroborated by visa services agency VFS Global, which has received around 1,32,000 visa applications for the UK in March and April this year for travel.
This figure is far higher than the number of Indian football fans who turned up in Russia for the 2018 FIFA World cup. FIFA had said around 4,500 Indians got tickets to watch the matches. In fact, the figure is also much higher than the 25,000 Indians estimated to have travelled to Australia and New Zealand to watch their team in action at the last world cup played in February-March of 2015.
Travel industry executives say that grounding of Jet Airways has led to a 15-20% rise in airfares to the UK, but is unlikely to dampen the spirits of travelling fans. An average Delhi-London return airfare has increased from Rs 60,000 to Rs 75,000 since April 17. An executive of a travel agency said that for cricket fans paying a little extra is not a big issue if they can manage to get a ticket for an India match.
Jet operated 35 weekly flights from Delhi and Mumbai before suspending operations on April 17. London is connected through direct flights from major Indian cities of Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad by Air India and British Airways. While Air India operates daily flights to London from Delhi and Mumbai, British Airways flies 49 weekly flights from these five cities. Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways also carry passengers to London with one-stop flights. Tour companies are also offering customised packages for fans who have managed to secure tickets.