S. Anil Radhakrishnan
Heavy rush is being witnessed in airline offices in the State
Air-India, Indian flights overbookedAirlines have hiked the fare by 100 to 150 per cent
Thiruvananthapuram: Heavy rush is being witnessed in the airline offices in the State with many Non-Resident Keralites (NRKs) running helter-skelter to manage a seat in the flights operating from Thiruvananthapuram international airport to the Gulf sector.
All the flights, including those of Air-India and Indian, bound for Gulf countries are overbooked. "No seat is available in the flights operating to the Gulf sector till September 15", according to airline officials and agents handling airline reservation.
Overbooking in many of the flights has resulted in the off-loading of passengers on many days. Five to 10 per cent overbooking is an accepted practice in airline industry. With cent per cent passengers reporting for all flights proceeding from the capital to the Gulf countries, these overbooked passengers have to be off-loaded at the last minute.
Over 5,000 persons are reportedly stranded in the State following the non-availability of seats to the Gulf countries. The worst-affected are those who came for vacation to State and first time travellers, aspiring to report for duty, after securing a "dream job" in Gulf countries.
Many persons who have been stranded face the risk of losing the jobs as they would not be able to report for duty before the expiry of visa. Those stranded hail mainly from the southern districts and neighbouring Kanyakumari and Tirunelveli districts of Tamil Nadu and who move through the premier international airport.
Heavy movement of Non-Resident Keralites back home for Onam is cited as another reason for the heavy demand of seats. The delay in securing the mandatory emigration clearance from the Protector of Emigrants (POE) following the raids by Central Bureau of Investigation into the offices of travel agents has also compounded to the problems. Among the various Gulf countries, seats to the United Arab Emirates, especially Dubai, are the most sought after from the State. Airline sources said the situation is likely to worsen in the coming days as educational institutions in the Gulf countries are scheduled to open in the first week of September after summer vacation.
Taking advantage of the heavy demand for seats, the airline has hiked the fare by 100 to 150 per cent to destinations in Gulf countries. Till July 31, the fare charged by various airlines from Thiruvananthapuram to Dubai was in the range of Rs.7,000 to Rs.9,500. The fare that is being levied from August in Thiruvananthapuram-Dubai sector by Oman Air is Rs.15,390, Qatar Airways Rs.13,015 and Rs.15,565, AI Rs.12,140, Rs.15,545, Gulf Air Rs.10,140, Rs.12,890 and Rs.13,640 and Sri Lankan Airlines Rs.9,985.
However, from August 16, Oman Air would be charging Rs.18, 440 and Rs.16,290 , Qatar Airways Rs.15, 563 and Rs.13,112 and Air-India Rs.18,690, Rs.17,490 and Rs.16,290, Sri Lankan Airlines Rs.15,100 and Rs.11,900 and Gulf Air Rs.13,085, Rs.12,260 and Rs.11,435. The new fares have been in the reservation system.
Travel trade sources said the fare may go up to Rs.22,000 if additional flights are not operated.