Holidays and Kingfisher crisis push up fares by 30- 40 percent It is cheaper to fly abroad than within the country. Jettison your Bharat Darshan plans this summer.
Flying abroad will make a smaller dent in your pocket because the triple whammy of the peak holiday travel season taking off, Kingfisher Airlines drastically curtailing its flights and resultant demand- supply imbalance has propelled domestic airfares to stratospheric levels.As of now, the best deal for you would be to be an early bird and chalk out your travel plans at least a month in advance so that the price of the air ticket works out to relatively less.
Tickets booked in advance are always cheaper than those purchased at the last moment.
Here’s a ready reckoner. On Wednesday, the one- way plane fare for a Delhi to Dubai flight on April 12 was Rs 15,505. But a Mumbai to Srinagar ticket would leave you poorer by Rs 20,458. While flying from the Capital to Kochi in Kerala on the same date will cost you Rs 15,644, the price of a ticket for a Delhi- Bangkok flight would work out to just Rs 12,487.Flying to destinations within the country is nearly 30 per cent costlier on an average now, and plane ticket prices have almost doubled in some cases. Low- cost carriers are charging Rs 11,000 for a Delhi- Mumbai return journey, but the business class ticket for the same twoway trip would cost you four times as much.
“Today, a Mumbai- Srinagar- Mumbai ticket costs nearly Rs 40,000. One can fly to Europe by spending this much money. Domestic airfares have skyrocketed by 10 to 30 per cent, the rise varying with the sector one flies to and how much in advance the booking is done,” Bhatija Travels Private Limited director Anup Kanuga points out.
“A few days ago, I paid an exorbitant amount for a New Delhi- Mumbai return ticket. I could have travelled to Dubai and back in less,” Rajinder Rai, the president of the Delhi- based Travel Agents Association of India, says recounting his own experience to Mail Today.
“The fall (downsized flight schedule) of Kingfisher has led to a capacity crunch. All airlines are now trying to take advantage of the situation as this is the only time of the year when they can make money. The carriers have incurred heavy losses lately and are trying their best to regain lost ground,” Veena Patil, managing director of Mumbai- based Kesari Tours Private Limited, explains.“Domestic airfares have gone up by 30 to 40 per cent. Out of this, the contribution of the Kingfisher factor is 10 percentage points,” she adds. Kanuga concurs and says: “Fares have been going up for over a month since the Kingfisher trouble started surfacing. Such a sharp rise in the cost of air travel is bound to hurt domestic tourism.” Pradeep Lulla, a Delhi- based expert who is a former president of the Travel Agents Federation of India, feels there are other reasons for the present trend as well.
“Factors such as the increase in fuel surcharge and an impending hike in airport tariffs have also contributed to the spike in airfares.”
The period between April 10 and June 5 is considered the peak season for domestic travel and airlines hike fares during this time as a standard practice. But smart fliers normally book well in advance. They avail themselves of cheaper fares by staking a claim to the first 20 percent seats sold by airlines at a discount. The rest need to shell out more. Airlines, for their part, justify higher fares by blaming the latter category of passengers for booking late. “There is no fare hike as such. During the peak season, fares are generally available only in the highest slab are because the lower ones get sold out well in advance. Naturally, a passenger will have to pay more for booking closer to the date of travel,” a senior Air India official avers. “ During the off- season, fares in the lowest slab are available till just a few days before the date of travel and that is why a comparison is unfair,” the official says.
Such arguments apart, the current ticket prices are virtually unaffordable. A New Delhi- Goa one- way ticket for April 12 is priced at a minimum of Rs 8,381 and cheapest ticket in the New Delhi- Srinagar sector for same date works out to Rs 8,906 by GoAir. A Delhi- Kolkata ticket for Thursday costs Rs 7,679 on a popular travel portal.
“Three months ago, a Mumbai- Srinagar- Mumbai economy class ticket used to be priced at Rs 13,000. Now, the airfare has shot up to between Rs 25,000 and Rs 35,000. The difference is stark. The Delhi- Srinagar- Delhi ticket that used to cost Rs 7,000 to Rs 8,000 earlier is more than 50 per cent pricier at present,” Patil reveals. The advice from travel agents is that people who want to fly cheaper can plan their trips for mid- May when fares are comparatively lower. For instance, the minimum one- way fare in the New Delhi- Goa sector is Rs 5,059 on May 15. Similarly, a New Delhi- Kolkata one- way fare for the same date is available for Rs 4,622 in a budget airline. The minimum fare for a New Delhi- Chennai trip for April 12 on SpiceJet is Rs 8,383 as compared to a full- service ticket from Kingfisher for mid- May being sold at Rs 5,382.Though the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has warned airlines not to hike fares, the carriers always have their way by pricing their tickets differently and get away by blaming passengers for booking late. The difference during the rush season this time is that in previous years there was always surplus capacity to keep fares in check. With Kingfisher cutting down its daily flights from around 350 to 120 owing to its financial problems, the demand- supply equilibrium has been disrupted.
“The possible permission to foreign airlines to invest in their domestic counterparts will help Kingfisher get cash and bring in the required capacity. That would nullify the fare hike to a certain extent. IndiGo is also augmenting capacity,” Bird Group executive director Ankur Bhatia asserts optimistically. “A Mumbai- Srinagar- Mumbai ticket costs Rs 40,000. With this money one can fly to Europe,” says Kanuga, Bhatija Travels.
© Reproduced From Mail Today. Copyright 2012. MTNPL. All rights reserved.