Summer travel plans affected as airfares on popular routes skyrocket

As Amit Patel, a professional at a private company, sat down to book a flight for a business trip to Bhopal from Delhi, he had to first postpone his travel by four days and ultimately buy a train ticket as the airfare for the 90-minute flight, at ₹20,000, was five times the usual price.

“I travel very frequently on the Delhi-Bhopal route and I usually pay ₹4,000 for one-way travel. I was travelling in the second week of May for an important work related to the elections, but decided to first wait for cheaper fares and then ultimately booked an Executive Class ticket on Shatabdi, which is an eight-hour journey and cost me ₹2,500,” Mr Patel said.

According to data provided by travel portal for bookings made for travel on May 18, ticket prices were higher by 10% to 60% as compared to the same period last year. For example, a Delhi-Bengaluru flight booked 30 days before travel cost ₹7,021, which is 42.3% higher than the airfare of ₹4,931 available last year for the same booking period.

A Delhi-Guwahati flight, also booked 30 days before travel, was 57% dearer at ₹7,536, as compared with ₹4,801 last year. Similarly, for bookings made seven days before travel, a Delhi-Bengaluru flight at ₹9,291 was 16.8% more expensive compared with last year.

The sharp rise in airfares comes at a time when there is a huge demand for travel during the summer vacation season as well as for school and college admissions, but there is a deficit in capacity due to the grounding of Jet Airways’ 123 planes. While the government has asked other airlines to speed up induction of new planes, it will take several months to bridge the gap.

Passengers planning overseas travel will also have to dig deeper into their pockets. Airfares for Mumbai- Dubai were nearly three times higher at ₹22,913 for a booking made 30 days before travel when compared with ₹7,167 last year. Delhi-London, too, was nearly three times costlier than last year (₹75,731 instead of ₹25,488). However, some sectors, where passengers have a plethora of low-cost airlines to choose from, such as Delhi-Bangkok and Delhi-Singapore, saw a dip of ticket cost of 61% and 78%, respectively.

Delhi and Mumbai together account for 42.6% of outbound travel by Indian citizens, according to government data. Spiralling airfares have resulted in foreign carriers like Qatar Airways proposing a temporary increase in seats between the two countries.

“Without our contingency plan, Indian travellers will be forced to either choose expensive last-minute tickets or complicated and burdensome re-routings,” said an airline spokesperson.

Plan in advance’s COO Sharat Dhall’s advice to travellers is to “plan in advance and not to book at the last moment to avoid the unprecedented hikes in airfares.” But there is no escaping high airfares this summer as it’s advance airfares that have been bumped up the most.

“Approximately 35% of seats are sold within the seven days to departure. Typically, these fares would be higher, capitalising on last moment customers such as corporate travellers. But, the real increase in fares has come from advanced ticketing due to a drop in capacity during a peak travel period. For this reason, the overall revenue per available seat kilometre (RASK) for the first quarter of financial year 2019-2020 is expected to be significantly higher than the first quarter last fiscal,” says independent aviation consultant, Manish Raniga.

The ability to raise airfares has come as a respite to airlines which have reeled under high aviation turbine fuel during financial year 2018-2019, but weren’t able to raise ticket costs fearing an impact on passenger demand. However, it is a setback for travellers and many are calling for capping of airfares.

“ There is no initiative from the government to lock the fares at a certain level. This has given freedom to airlines to charge as much they like. This must stop,” Mr Sunil Kumar Rumala , president, Travel Agents Association of India, said.

(Inputs from Aditya Anand; Lalatendu Mishra)

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Printable version | Jan 19, 2021 2:31:11 PM |

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