Ticket prices skyrocket for foreign trips
Passengers making last-minute flight bookings for foreign destinations are getting a big hole burnt in their pockets. Reasons? The collapse of debt-ridden Jet Airways and a partial closure of Pakistan's airspace that's resulted in longer routes, additional stopovers, flight cancellations and increased fares.
For example, a one-way ticket for a 13-hour Air India flight from Delhi to London via Vienna - the fastest option- costs Rs 2.06 lakh for travel on April 19, according to fares listed on Yatra.com. For April 22, the fastest one-way option is a one-stop 19-hour Ethiopian Airline flight that costs Rs 84,140.
"There are two flights each of Air India and British Airways and one flight each of Virgin Atlantic and Jet Airways on the Delhi-London route. Ever since Jet Airways has been withdrawn, there has been no capacity addition on this route. This is why fares are higher," said Bird Group executive director Ankur Bhatia. There will be a spike in fares over the next five or six days, but travellers have the option to go via Dubai or other places, he added.
Travel agents and aviation experts pointed out that last-minute international travel bookings, both business and leisure, make up 25-30 per cent of all queries and tend to come in even five days before the travel date.
"This fare hike is because of the crisis in Jet Airways. Every airline is taking advantage of the situation and raising fares based on demand and supply. The government has no control over airfares," said Jaipurbased travel agent Arun Chowdhary.
This time last year, Delhi-London tickets cost `50,000-`60,000 when booked around 20 days in advance, he added.
"Even for last-minute bookings, the fares don't differ this much." The closure of Pakistan's airspace since February 27 after India's air strike in Balakot has also compounded the crisis.
"Chicago-headquartered United Airlines has cancelled its New York-Delhi flight. So, lower capacity and higher demand have pushed up faresAir India's Delhi-New York direct flight now goes via Vienna to avoid Pakistan's airspace," said Chowdhary.
The Delhi-New York route is not as stressed as the London route because Jet did not operate to the US, Bhatia said. Meanwhile, last-minute fares on the route have crossed a lakh, while Delhi-Los Angeles fare is nearing a lakh.
"I prefer Jet airways for my foreign trips. But now I have bought a one-way ticket for `1.55 lakh on British Airways," said Delhi-based businessman
Amitabh Sharma, a frequent flyer to Berlin and Paris. "Fares have gone through the roof, primarily because of the Jet Airways crisis and dynamic pricing by other airlines Travellers are in for a bad time if they have not booked air tickets well in advance," said former president of Travel Agents' Association of India, Rajinder Rai.
"Apart from Air India, Jet had big stakes in international travel. Jet was also a favourite among many International passengers for a long time. The w ithdrawal of its services is severely pinching passengers who planned European holidays," said Gurugram-based travel operator BN Lal.
While passengers are getting flight ticket refunds, hotel cancellations cost about 50 per cent of the total package. So many travelers are left with no option but to buy air tickets at twice or thrice the regular fares, he added.
Experts see the fares settling down once other airlines add more capacity on key routes.
"With the peak travel season having kicked off, we expect airlines to induct more aircraft to tap into the increased demand on the key business and leisure routes. This will also result in a rationalisation of airfares and we expect them to increase only marginally as compared to the same season last year," said Yatra.com COO (B2C) Sharat Dhall.
The domestic sector has also been hit hard. As reported by Mail Today on April 7, the aircraft fleet of domestic carriers has shrunk by 16% between December and now. India's monthly air passenger growth, a healthy 20% till October last year, plunged to 7.42% in February.
The number of domestic flyers has fallen from 11.85 million in October to 11.35 million in February. As the Jet crisis deepens, a further 2 percentage point drop in passenger growth is expected, say experts.