Low-fare tickets are a vanishing commodity this Christmas-New Year season they have been booked a couple of months before.
City-based businessman Satyajit Burman learned it the hard way when he decided to spend the year-end in Delhi with his family.
He went to his travel agent on Tuesday to buy low-fare tickets, but ended up paying a lot more. I usually pay between Rs 3,500 and Rs 4,200 for a ticket to Delhi. For a night flight, you can even get a ticket for Rs 2,200. But on Tuesday, I was given a choice between Rs 6,000 and Rs 9,000 for a December 27 flight, said Burman.
Industry sources said almost all flights to popular destinations, domestic and international, will go full from the last week of December to the middle of February. Those making last-minute plans have no option but to pay premium fares, said a travel agent.
A lucky few may still get the low-cost tickets as there are always some cancellations at the last moment, said a tour operator.
The demand is growing by the year. On most sectors, seats are booked a couple of months in advance, said Anil Punjabi, the chairman of the Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI).
Passenger traffic, he pointed out, jumped 15 per cent compared to last year.
From Calcutta, the number of flights has gone up from 616 in summer to 676 in winter this year.
On the international sectors, southeast Asia and West Asia are the most sought-after destinations. Within the country, the flights for Delhi, Mumbai, Goa, Port Blair, Bangalore, Chennai and Bagdogra are going full.
It is very difficult to get a low-fare seat now. The rush to fly will start within a few days and will continue till the middle of February, said an official of Singapore Airlines.
The situation is same with the low-cost carriers. Air India Express, which started operations between Calcutta and southeast Asia this year, is touching 100 per cent load factor on every alternate flight, an airline official claimed.
The airline has launched a special fare, starting from Rs 1,299 (taxes extra), on the Calcutta-Bangkok sector for January 1 and 3.