Airfares drop by up to 25% owing to COVID-19 outbreak, falling oil prices

Airlines publicise cleaning efforts to stem droput

COVID-19 and falling oil prices have shaved off last-minute airfares on domestic routes by 20% to 25%. Airlines are holding back from increasing fares over weakening demand and are instead focusing on publicising aircraft sanitising efforts to arrest passenger dropout.

On Thursday, IndiGo said it had seen a 15% to 20% decline in daily bookings week on week. “In January and February, IndiGo experienced modest impact from the coronavirus. We cancelled our flights to China and Hong Kong and reduced frequency to certain other south-east Asian markets. This capacity was redeployed in other markets without having a material impact on our revenues. The decline was seen over the past few days, however,” an airline spokesperson said.

Artificial intelligence-based travel app company ixigo said it had recorded a 27% drop in Delhi-Mumbai fares week on week. “Fares between the Capital and Mumbai between March 9 and 11 were available for ₹3,333, down from ₹4,569 on March 7. Similarly, Chennai-Delhi fares had dropped by 22.5% over the past two weeks. However, Delhi-Chennai had seen an increase of 12.29% over the past one week,” said a spokesperson.

The highest fare increase over the past two weeks was of 41.09% on the Delhi-Kolkata sector. “Airlines are clearly refraining from increasing prices at the moment as they pre-empt a weakening of demand on the domestic side. A few sectors have seen a short-term spike in fares this week probably due to Holi travel,” Aloke Bajpai, co-founder, ixigo, said.

IndiGo, in a statement, said it expects its quarterly earnings to be materially impacted. “In addition, the rupee has also depreciated sharply, which will have an adverse impact on our dollar-denominated liabilities,” the spokesperson said.

SpiceJet has announced a spring season sale, offering one-way fares at ₹987 for domestic sectors and ₹3,699 for international sectors like Colombo, Bangkok and Dhaka. The fares also offer a meal (veg sandwich) and a free seat on selective inventory. The four-day sale is on till March 15 for travel till February 28, 2021.

Global impact

Analysts said that on metro routes like Delhi to Mumbai, airlines could cut down on frequency. The International Air Transport Association estimated global revenue losses for airlines of up to a maximum $113 billion, excluding impact on cargo operations. On the international sector, Air India has already curtailed its operations to Rome, Milan and Singapore, in addition to operating smaller aircraft to some destinations like Jeddah.

Online travel portal, MakeMyTrip, said that given the rapidly changing scenario, they continue to monitor the developments closely and will share updates and forecasts based on the advice of government and public health authorities.

Rajesh Magow, group CEO, MakeMyTrip, said the government’s decision to cancel all visas, with a few exemptions, is timely to control the spread of COVID-19 and given the fast-paced developments, it is critical to account for the inflow of persons from 110 affected countries. “So far, there are no restrictions or advisories issued for domestic travel. The period between February till the end of March is typically lean because of the exam season, but we are seeing a demand slowdown for the summer holiday season, especially for international travel. The situation remains dynamic, making it hard to quantify the actual impact on our business and industry,” Mr. Magow said.

Sabina Chopra, co-founder of, said customers are wary of making fresh bookings to the affected locations and airfares to these destinations have dropped by over 40%. “We have received nearly 35% cancellation queries from travellers planning their trips to foreign locations in the holiday season.”

Cleaner aircraft

With the number of passengers dwindling, airlines have taken to publicising efforts to keep their aircraft cleaner. Air Asia and SpiceJet have been sending out mails to customers explaining how their staff is ensuring that the aircraft was deep-cleaned before a flight.

“A basic but more thorough cabin clean is usually carried out at night or when there is more downtime. This includes the cleaning of toilets, wiping down and disinfecting of trays, cleaning galleys, overhead bins and seats, and takes up to an hour or longer,” an Air India official said.

A SpiceJet spokesperson said all international flights were treated with disinfectants after passenger disembarkation. “Extensive deep cleaning ofi all flights s done during the night halt of aircraft,” he said.

As per a Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) directive, a special advisory has been released on dos and don’ts for all ground personnel and staff at check-in counters. Those who handle boarding cards and are in direct contact with passengers have been advised on regular use of sanitisers. “All staff entering the aircraft have to be provided with masks and gloves to ensure their own protection against COVID 19,” a senior DGCA official said.

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Printable version | Jun 3, 2020 2:21:18 AM |

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