| People arrive at Patna airport on Wednesday. Picture by Nagendra Kumar Singh |
The homecoming of non-resident Biharis before Chhath has jacked up the fares of Patna-bound flights drastically.
The airfares have more than doubled on most of the routes with professionals and students heading home from other states before the Sun fest. The normal airfare of Rs 4,500-5,000 on the Delhi-Patna route has soared more than twice. For Thursday, flight tickets to the city from the national capital were in the range of Rs 9,000-20,000.
Similarly, the ticket prices have soared on the Calcutta-Patna route. Normally priced between Rs 3,000 and Rs 4,000, the airfare on the sector has soared to Rs 10,700-28,000.
Similar was the scene on the Mumbai-Patna route. Tickets were available in the range of Rs 11,500 to Rs 29,000 against the normal range of Rs 8,500-Rs 9,000.
Airfares are equally high in the weekend, when people would start going back to their respective workplaces.
Most people from the state prefer to be at home with their families during Chhath. Professionals and students from other cities would try to be at home latest by Thursday to offer arghya on Friday evening, triggering heavy rush on trains and in planes. The steep rise in the prices of tickets in the Patna-bound planes is the fallout of the Chhath rush.
“The peak season for air travel on the Patna sector starts from Diwali and continues till Chhath. Air traffic, both inbound and outbound, is very high during this time of the year. The rush in the inbound travel for Chhath has started from yesterday (Tuesday). Those who have come home would start returning after offering the morning arghya on Saturday. So, the airfares are astronomically high for the flights between Saturday evening and Monday also,” said Raman Jha, the manager of Super Travels, Patna.
Airlines corroborated the claim of Jha. “We get bookings for over 100 passengers per flight per day on the busy routes like Delhi-Patna-Delhi and Calcutta-Patna-Calcutta during the festive season. The total number of seats in every flight is around 125. The resultant demand-supply gap is the reason behind the temporary surge in the airfares,” said a senior executive of a private airline at Jayaprakash Narayan International Airport.
The surge in the airfare is burning holes in the pockets of fliers. “My brother works in a private firm in Mumbai. He decided to come home for Chhath at the eleventh hour. He came on Wednesday morning only and has to join office on Monday. Thus, we booked an air ticket for Sunday for around Rs 18,000, almost double the normal fare,” said Ravi Sinha, a resident of SK Nagar.
Several people cancelled their homecoming plans because of the high airfares. “My leave application was approved on Monday, but by that time the airfares surged astronomically. The total expenses in going to Patna and coming back to Delhi was coming to around Rs 25,000,” said Prashant Kumar, a resident of SK Nagar now based in Delhi.