Private airlines, including those based in the Gulf, have exorbitantly hiked the airfares from various destinations in West Asia to Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, and Kozhikode in the State, putting the travel plans of hundreds of Non-Resident Keralites (NoRKs) into disarray.

Along with the steep hike in the airfares to the State, the non-availability of seats, especially in the most sought-after Economy class, in the flights of the foreign airlines that operate to the three airports has come as a big blow to the NoRKs and their families.

The one-way airfares from the Gulf to the three airports that was in the range of Rs.6,000 to Rs.9,000 for the Economy class before the Air India pilots' strike has been steeply hiked and is now in the range of Rs.30,000 to Rs.62,000. The fares that were hiked by 50 to 100 per cent by the private carriers immediately after the strike began went up by 500 to 600 per cent in July.

Cashing in on strike

The steep hike in the airfares have been resorted to by the private airlines in the country and the foreign airlines to cash in on the cancellation of flights of Air India and Air India Express as a result of the strike by the pilots owing allegiance to the Indian Pilots Guild and the forthcoming summer vacation in the Gulf countries, sources in the travel trade told The Hindu. In the Qatar-Thiruvananthapuram sector, the fare for an Economy class ticket on July 1 and 3 was Rs.60,317; in the Dubai-Thiruvananthapuram sector, it was Rs.49,037 on July 1 and 3; in the Dammam-Thiruvananthapuram sector Rs.36,718 on July 1, 2 and 3; and in the Kuwait-Thiruvananthapuram sector Rs.62,574 on July 1. The minimum fare after the pilots' stir in these sectors was Rs.16,887, Rs.13,962, Rs.15,983 and Rs.14,410, respectively.

In many Gulf-Kerala sectors, the Economy class tickets have been sold out and the NORKs are forced to travel in the Executive class. An Executive class ticket in a foreign airline operating in the Qatar-Thiruvananthapuram sector in July will cost Rs.88,361.

Airline sources said several flights of Air India and Air India Express had been cancelled and frequencies reduced to the Gulf sector.

Visits postponed

Many are finding it difficult to come home from these countries, and several families have reportedly postponed the journey as they cannot afford the airfare. Travel trade sources said the airlines would hike the fare in the Kerala-Gulf sector after August as there would be a heavy rush of NoRKs returning after the holidays and Onam.

Keywords: airfare hike