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Flights full to IPL final

- Fans scurry for tickets to Bangalore as Knight Riders revel in afterglow of Eden victory

Prince Dewan and wife Sneha were booked for Bangalore within hours of returning home from the Eden Gardens after cheering the Kolkata Knight Riders to a berth in the IPL final.

Many other KKR fans keen to head for Bangalore might have to be content watching Sunday’s final from their favourite sofa.

Seats on most of the 10 daily flights to Bangalore have been filling up so fast since Thursday morning that airlines have been encouraged to raise fares across the board. By evening, Jet Airways’ 5.55pm flight on Saturday was sold out except a few higher-priced economy seats. A few of the 12 business-class seats, priced between Rs 30,000 to Rs 35,000, had also been booked.

IndiGo’s morning flight on Sunday had only a couple of seats left while SpiceJet’s lowest fare for Saturday was around Rs 3,700 higher than usual.

Blame the pinch on the Bangalore-bound fan’s pocket on Robin Uthappa and Co, whose sterling show against league leaders Kings XI Punjab has raised expectations of a second IPL trophy. “These aren’t corporate bookings. The IPL final has had a role to play in the sudden demand for tickets since Wednesday night,” a tour operator said.

Low yield has always plagued flights out of Calcutta, primarily because airlines struggle to sell premium economy and business-class seats. But many KKR fans don’t seem to mind higher airfares as long as a seat is guaranteed.

“This is like a festival rush. The spike in demand was abrupt, starting late on Wednesday. Fans were probably holding on to their plans till KKR won and made a direct entry into the final. By next evening, most of the Bangalore-bound flights for Saturday evening and Sunday morning were almost fully booked,” said Anil Punjabi, chairman (east) of the Travel Agents’ Federation of India.

On a normal weekend, the one-way fare to Bangalore ranges between Rs 9,000 and Rs 10,500. For the IPL weekend, fares varied between Rs 12,000 and Rs 15,000 on Thursday and were tipped to rise further for the last few remaining seats.

SpiceJet, which operates two direct daily flights to Bangalore from the city, reported “90 per cent bookings” for the weekend till Thursday afternoon. “This is more than the normal weekend rush and it’s happening because of the final. Usually, we have a load factor of around 80 per cent,” an airline official said.

The Dewans, residents of Theatre Road, needn’t worry about their tickets because they called a travel agent to block theirs the moment KKR were through.

On Thursday, the couple’s travel agent delivered two tickets for Sunday morning’s SpiceJet flight, priced Rs 12,000 each one way. “We had planned to go to Bangalore if KKR won the qualifier. So there was no question of waiting to confirm our trip after the berth in the final had been sealed,” Sneha said.

Businessman Prince booked the match tickets online.

S. Kumar and wife Radha have a surprise lined up for their 15-year old son Arvind, a die-hard KKR fan. The Kumars were at Eden on Wednesday evening when the Knights defeated Punjab by 28 runs.

“As soon as we were sure that KKR would beat Punjab, my husband called a relative in Bangalore to book two tickets for the final for me and my son. We haven’t told our son about it yet,” Radha said.

Mother and son will take Saturday evening’s Jet Airways flight to Bangalore. Their return tickets cost Rs 24,000 each.