Website, business will be launched next week

From next week, air passengers can expect better options on online air tickets, with the entry of the Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) in the fray.

The IRCTC, according to sources, will launch its own website and business next week — eyeing the online air ticket sale facility in an apparent bid to emerge as the country's premier travel and tourism facility provider. It will also have a toll-free number (1800110139).

The IRCTC's current services include electronic sale of railway tickets, cab rental and hotel booking and, with its new job, it intends to give competition to other online travel agents (OTAs) by covering all sectors.

Claiming it had entered into an agreement with all full service carriers and low-cost carriers, the IRCTC's new air ticketing website will provide meta-search facility of all domestic carriers, including Air India, Kingfisher, Jet, GoAir, Indigo and Spicejet.

A subsidiary of the Indian Railways, the IRCTC intends to enter the market with a package of attractive offers, eyeing the 1.5 lakh air tickets that are sold daily of which about 75,000 are bought online.

According to officials, the IRCTC will not levy service charge and offer a discount of Rs. 100 per ticket which together will work out to a total discount in the range of Rs. 200 to Rs. 300 per ticket. Officials also maintained that the IRCTC's cancellation charges, too, would be less than 50 per cent of what the OTAs charge, which ranges between Rs. 500 and Rs. 750 per ticket.

The IRCTC boasts of one of the largest e-commerce capabilities, selling about 3.5 lakh railway tickets every day, which accounts for 45 per cent of the total reserved tickets sold on a daily basis, transparent payment procedure and a quick refund process. Apart from promising quick refund in case of cancellation, IRCTC officials said they were in touch with some banks to get cash back offers for those using their credit cards.

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