Nima Wangdi   

Although many countries have imposed travel restrictions and delayed reopening their borders because of the coronavirus variant Omicron, Bhutanese intending to travel abroad have not cancelled their plans yet.

The Omicron variant is a variant of the SARS-CoV-2 that causes Covid-19. It reportedly has a higher number of mutations. It was first reported to the World Health Organization (WHO) by South Africa on November 24, 2021.

Officials at Drukair, the only international passenger flight service provider for now, said there have been no air ticket cancellations up to now. “We have not changed our flight schedules owing to Omicron,” an official said.

According to the official, Drukair flies to Delhi and Bangkok, besides local flight services and random cargo flights to Singapore from November 26 to December 31.

Bhutan Airlines, which has not provided passenger flight services since the onset of the pandemic in March last year, has cargo flights once a month to Kathmandu and once a week to Bangkok. They have also flown chartered cargo flights to Singapore and Hong Kong.

Officials said an education consultant has chartered two flights on December 19 to Bangkok. “Besides this, we operate mountain flight services once a week to keep our flights running and for cabin crew recurrent training,” an official said.

The mountain flight service takes passengers around the country, overlooking snow-capped mountains for 45 minutes.

An education consultant, Tandin Dorji, who is the managing director of Education Pro Bhutan, said he chartered two Bhutan Airlines flights on November 19 and another connecting chartered Thai Airways flight from Thailand to Sydney.

He is currently in Bangkok, Thailand, arranging flights to Australia. “We resorted to this arrangement because my clients had problems after they paid for everything in Australia.”

According to Tandin Dorji, they initially planned to leave on November 15, but had to postpone, as the Australian government deferred reopening for another two weeks.

Australia initially announced that it would reopen its borders on December 1. It was later announced that reopening might be delayed by two weeks.

Meanwhile, a corporate employee, who is supposed to go to Australia by the chartered flights, said he is still not sure if the Australian government will reopen as they have announced.

His course will start in March.