The unprecedented surge in coronavirus infections in India has prompted rich families to escape the country by private jet.
Amid the mounting COVID-19 crisis in India and reports of oxygen, hospital bed, and drug shortages, the country's tycoons and others who can pay fares running into millions of rupees are booking flights to safe dens in Europe, the Indian Ocean, and the Middle East.
"It's not only the ultra-rich," Rajan Mehra, CEO, Club One Air, a New Delhi-based private jet firm, told Bloomberg. He added that anybody who can afford to take a private jet is booking a ticket.
India registered 3,52,991 fresh coronavirus cases on Monday, April 26, the highest daily case tally globally since the COVID-19 pandemic began last year. With India's health infrastructure crumbling under the mounting strain of virus cases, Bollywood stars too have been spotted getting away to destinations such as the Maldives.
Some of the impetus for rich Indians to fly out of the country has also come from other nations taking steps to curb travel from South Asian state in the wake of the COVID-19 second wave. The UK, Canada, UAE, and Hong Kong are among over a dozen countries that have placed restrictions, while other nations are poised to announce measures.
The report added that the Maldives will restrain Indians from visiting all but some resort-only islands from Tuesday, resulting in a last-minute rush in departures.
"There was a huge surge to London and Dubai just before the restrictions took place, and the Maldives too before they announced the ban," Mehra who was earlier the head of Indian operations at Qatar Airways, told the news agency.
A one-way flight from New Delhi to Dubai is priced at around Rs 15 lakh ($20,000), comprising ground handling and other fees, Mehra said, adding that private-jet operators also charge for return flight if the plane is empty.
The retreat to foreign locations has reverberations of last year, when India prohibited medical evacuation flights in view of the concern that wealthy people might falsely claim that they need treatment to jet around the country during the lockdown after the government proscribed commercial services.
Whilst private airfares were already high and haven't been increased, airline ticket prices have climbed.
There's little availability to foreign locales such as London in the wake of a spurt in bookings for "immediate travel", Nishant Pitti, Co-Founder, Easy Trip Planners India, told the news agency.
Meanwhile, Mehra said that the one-way economy class trips to Dubai cost around $1,300, over 10 times the regular fare. "That shows how desperately people are trying to get away," he noted.