TAIPEI (Taiwan News) — The new shortened "3+4" quarantine, the monthly quota on inbound passengers, soaring fuel prices, and pent-up demand has resulted in skyrocketing airfares for nearby Asian destinations as well as major cities in Europe and North America.
On Wednesday (June 15), Taiwan shortened the previous "7+7" formula of seven days of quarantine and seven days of self-health monitoring to a "3+4" scheme. However, one of the caveats listed by Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) head Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) was that starting on that date, the number of passengers allowed to enter the country per week would be limited to 25,000.
In the five days since the shortened quarantine and quota were announced on Saturday (June 11), there has been a mad dash for flights both in the region and further afield. Many residents in Taiwan are looking forward to taking their first overseas flight since the start of the pandemic in 2019, but they are being hit by sticker shock from the dramatically higher airfares.
In East Asia, a flight in November 2022 from Taipei to Tokyo is 48% more expensive than November 2019, while routes to Osaka and Seoul have risen 80% and 81%, respectively, according to ezTravel. The cost for flights to Paris and London in November has soared by 120%, while the price for a ticket to Los Angeles has shot up by 162%, reported FTV News.
For example, a flight from Taipei to Los Angeles that cost NT$18,000 (USD$605) in 2019 is now selling for NT$49,000, an increase of NT$31,000 or US$1,000. A ticket that cost NT$10,853 from Taipei to Tokyo in 2019, now sells for NT$12,756.
EVA Air president Sun Chia-ming (孫嘉明) told the media on Wednesday (June 15) that the rise in fuel costs has led to a 30% to 40% increase in plane ticket prices. Pien Chieh-min (卞傑民), the general manager of Phoenix Tours, told the press that in this early phase of reopening the border, airfares are 30% to 50% higher than before the pandemic.
A representative from a tour agency was cited by the news site as saying the solution would be to search for special discounts from budget airlines during off-peak periods. Other options include booking red-eye flights and flights with one or more connections rather than direct flights.
Airlines have reported that the number of bookings through the end of June have already exceeded the 25,000 monthly quota and have called on the government to further relax the limit, reported SET News. When asked at a press conference on Thursday whether the quota can be increased, Philip Lo (羅一鈞), deputy head of the CECC's medical response division, said that raising the quota would depend on factors such as the capacity to process and test inbound passengers and the ability of the medical system to cope with a new spike in cases.
Lo said that cases appear to have just started to decline, but that increasing the quota for inbound passengers will have to be synchronized with the COVID situation.