Mumbai, March 15: Freak Indian run or no, if you’re now itching to snatch a glimpse of Sourav and his band of boys live, forget it. It maybe more than much too late.
All flights to South Africa via Mumbai are now clocking thrice or even four times the usual number of passengers. Renowned travel companies have long stopped taking bookings. And with the win machine due to take on surprise minnows Kenya in Durban on the 20th, all tickets on SA Airlines’ direct flight for the 17th and 18th have been sold out.
Bhusan, an agent with Sai Travels, laughs when asked if a ticket to South Africa can be booked now. “Acchha cricket ke liye'” he asks sympathetically over phone.
“You know, it’s getting more and more difficult to get a ticket to SA. Most flights have been booked to capacity. There seems to be everybody on board — businessmen, film stars, cricket fanatics, holidaymakers. Just about everyone with money and time want to spend it watching India win. Do I book your ticket now' Tomorrow might be too late,” Bhusan adds.
The refrain — part threat, part bait — is the same at airline offices: rush for it, a moment later may be too late. That’s what the voice at the South Africa Airlines counter says, too. Snap it up, it adds, there is a mad race for the March 20 and 23 flights (the semis and finals).
The scenario at Kenya Airlines is not different either though the flight stops over at Nairobi. Nor are the steep one-way prices (SA Airlines Rs 33,400; Air Emirates Rs 33,200; and Kenya Airlines Rs 23,200 plus taxes) any obstacle for cricket-crazy Indians drooling for a replay of 1983.
A spokesperson at Sita Travels says the company has never — in recent memory — booked so many tickets for SA. According to her computer, there are only four seats left on tomorrow’s SA Airlines flight to the season’s most-favoured destination.
“It’s amazing what India’s performance at the World Cup has done for South African tourism. If you want to go, you’ll have to book now,’’ she adds.
If the airline offices held out some hope, the spokesperson for SOTC, a division of Kuoni Travel (India), threw chilled water on it. Sorry, bookings over long ago, was the answer.
With SOTC targeting corporate houses for block bookings, it had started as early as July last year when bookings began across the globe.
“This made it imperative for us to meet the timelines, so that we could give all our customers what they were eagerly waiting for — a chance to watch India play at the World Cup,” she says.
The response was so overwhelming that SOTC stopped accepting bookings from mid-November as it had already met its 2,000-seat target. Ordinarily, SOTC books 700-800 tickets a year to South Africa.
“Since India’s superb win against Pakistan (in the Super Sixes), we have noted a significant rise in inquiries,” she said
“SOTC’s Sport Abroad, a special business unit focusing on sports tourism, has received a little over 850 inquiries since Sunday, March 2, across all our offices in India,” she adds.
With the adrenaline rising with each successive victory logged by Sourav’s boys and the race for seats hotting up like never before, only the lucky ones will make it.
Or you would have to be a buddy of liquor baron Vijay Mallya, who is flying two planeloads of friends and acquaintances to SA on his personal aircraft.