Flights fewer, fares soar
The withdrawal of Jet Airways flights has made flying to at least two destinations from Calcutta costlier.
The airfare from Calcutta to Mumbai, Delhi and Bangalore has skyrocketed despite this not being a tourist season, tour operators and passengers said.
A one-way trip to Mumbai on April 11 will cost between Rs 17,000 and Rs 26,000, according to travel portals on Tuesday. Usually, during this time of the year, the spot fares hover around Rs 8,000 for a one-way trip on the route, tour operators said.
The Mumbai-Calcutta route is no stranger to surge in fares but that happens mostly during the festive season such as the Puja, which sees a rush among people from the city working elsewhere to return home.
Once, ahead of the Puja, the airfare from Mumbai to Calcutta had touched Rs 50,000.
The last-minute airfare from Calcutta to Delhi was around Rs 13,000, compared with the average of Rs 7,000 that airlines charge during this period.
Over the past few months, Jet Airways has withdrawn six of its seven flights in the Calcutta-Mumbai sector and all three in the Calcutta-Delhi sector, sources said.
“The withdrawal of the flights has resulted in the reduction of around 1,000 seats in the Calcutta-Mumbai sector and around 500 seats in the Calcutta-Delhi sector. Hence, the surge in fares,” an aviation industry veteran said.
Though Jet has not withdrawn any flight in the Bangalore sector, passengers said on Tuesday the last-minute fare from Calcutta to the Karnataka capital was around Rs 15,000, compared with the off-season average of Rs 8,000.
Tabla exponent Sabir Khan had taken his wife to Mumbai for medical treatment. “I was planning to return to Calcutta last Thursday, April 4. On April 2, I found the one-way fare was more than Rs 20,000. Last Friday’s fare was around Rs 27,000. There were some seats available for less than Rs 20,000 but those were on hopping flights,” Khan said on Tuesday.
He had to book train tickets to return home.
“The (summer) holiday season starts towards the end of April and continues till June. Fares go up during the period. Though it’s off-season now, the fares are comparable with the peak season rates. The sudden dip in the number of seats has led to the surge. Unless the civil aviation ministry intervenes and take measures to add more flights in the sectors, the surge will continue,” said Anil Punjabi, chairman (east), Travel Agents Federation of India.
Mumbai International Airport Ltd, which runs the airport in the Maharashtra capital, has allotted two slots in the Calcutta sector to other airlines. Vistara will operate a flight from April 16 till July 19, targeting the holiday season traffic. AirAsia will operate a flight from the middle of April, Mumbai airport officials said.
“These airlines had been demanding slots for long but we were unable to accommodate them because all slots were full. Now, after the withdrawal of Jet flights, we can allot some slots to other airlines,” an official said.