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Sun 17 Feb 2019 09:36 AM

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Cancellations, grounding of aircraft leads to spike in Indian airfares

Grounding of aircraft by Indian carriers IndiGo and Jet Airways sees hike in cost in southern India, from Delhi and Mumbai

Cancellations, grounding of aircraft leads to spike in Indian airfares
Grounding of aircraft by Indian carriers IndiGo and Jet Airways sees hike in cost in southern India, from Delhi and Mumbai

Airfares for travel within India are currently witnessing a sudden spike, more than doubling in price to many cities, following a spate of flight cancellations and grounding of aircraft by Indian carriers IndiGo and Jet Airways.

Travel industry sources said one-way airfares on the Delhi-Bangalore sector or Mumbai-Chennai sector have shot up to $250-$350 range for travel on the same day or the next 2-3 days. Return tickets on these routes were available for $100-$125 till few days ago.

“The ticket for Delhi-Bangalore for travel within 2-3 days will come for about $340 and for Mumbai-Chennai for about $280 if a passenger books it today,” said Deepak Sajwani, a manager with Delhi-based GS Travels.

He said these tickets were available for about $80 to $130 till some days ago, he said.

Senior executives at Air India and SpiceJet said their airlines have not increased fares on account of large scale flight cancellations by IndiGo and Jet.

“Our fares buckets are fixed much in advance,” the Air India spokesman said.

Travel industry executives said airlines do not show any cancellation of flights in searches for ticket bookings.

“Their sites will show no inventory, meaning flights are fully booked. Only when a passenger with a confirmed ticket for a particular flight confronts the airline, they (airline executives) would say the flight has been cancelled,” Sajwani said.

Major disruptions

Tour and travel operators said the sudden cancellation of flights have caused major disruptions in the travel plans of NRIs (non-resident Indians) from the Gulf region and other countries as also international tourists, many of them getting stranded at airports in Mumbai and Delhi, waiting to be accommodated on alternate flights to their final destinations in south and other parts of India.

“NRIs and foreign tourists who were arriving from various overseas destinations were the worst affected because of the sudden cancellation of flights,” said Anil John, a manager with Cochin-based tour and travel service firm Ebenezer Holiday.

“Many of them complained of waiting for 10-14 hours at Delhi or Mumbai airport for their onward journey to cities like Cochin,” he added.

IndiGo has said it would be cancelling 30 flights daily till end of March.

“These cancellations, however, do not include ‘NOTAMS’ (notice to airmen about disruptions) which are issued by various airports due to operational reasons,” IndiGo spokesperson told Arabian Business.

IndiGo said a NOTAM at Bangalore airport, due to the India Aero Show slated for 20-24 this month, have caused cancellation of additional 40 flights, “rescheduling for which was completed and passengers are re-accommodated accordingly”.

Shortage of pilots

While the industry sources said the cancellations by IndiGo were mainly on account of shortage of pilots being faced by the airline, the IndiGo spokesperson said that “the flight cancellations were on account of various operational issues.”

IndiGo said it has about 3,000 pilots, including 1260 captains and that pilot shortage is an industry-wide issue being faced by all Indian carriers and not specific to it alone.

The disruptions at Mumbai airport due to the on-going runway maintenance work have added to cancellations and rescheduling of flights by airlines.

The cash-strapped Jet Airways had to ground 3-4 aircrafts recently, reportedly on account of payment issues with the airline’s leasers.

Jet has also cancelled some of the flights on the domestic route due to various reasons.

A senior executive with Jet Airways said the cancellations by the airline were scheduled much in advance and have been intimated to the passengers more than 48 hours before their travel plans.

Executives at both IndiGo and Jet Airways said they have offered to accommodate affected passengers, including NRIs and tourists, on alternate flights or make full refund to them, in case they are not comfortable with the rescheduled flight timings.

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