Airfares up by over 100% as airlines cancel flights, Mumbai flyers most affected

Airfares up by over 100% as airlines cancel flights, Mumbai flyers most affected
According to experts, last minute airfares on key routes like Delhi-Mumbai, Mumbai-Chennai, Mumbai-Kolkata & Mumbai-Bengaluru have increased to more than 100% (Representational Image, Courtesy: ixigo)

Passengers, especially those flying to or from Mumbai, are faced with prospects of high airfares and limited choices amid airlines cancelling flights owing to a number of reasons, including the grounding of 737 MAX aircraft.

While the grounding and subsequent cancellations have led to a surge in fares on most busy routes, Mumbai flyers are among the worst affected as the timing coincides with the ongoing runway closures wherein flights are being halted for six hours on three days of the week.

According to reports, citing industry insiders, some sectors have shown a rise of more than 100 percent in last minute bookings.

“With an unprecedented number of planes now grounded due to various factors, reduction in seat capacity has led to an increase in fares overnight. Last minute airfares on Wednesday increased to more than 100 percent on some key routes like Delhi-Mumbai, Mumbai-Chennai, Mumbai-Kolkata & Mumbai-Bengaluru as compared to same time last year,” said Aloke Bajapi, CEO and Co-founder, ixigo.

“Spot fares for Mumbai-Chennai are touching Rs 26,073 as opposed to Rs 5,369 the same time last year. High airfare patterns are expected to continue in the short term with Holi and summer school holidays round the corner, resulting in increased demand.”

SpiceJet and Jet Airways are among those whose operations have been hit due to the government’s decision to join a global grounding of 737-MAX aircraft following a crash in Ethiopia.

In India, SpiceJet and Jet Airways operate 17 Boeing 737-800 MAX aircraft – Spice (12) and Jet (5). However, a part of Jet fleet has already been grounded due to other reasons.

The grounding led SpiceJet to cancel 14 flights on Wednesday and the number is expected to touch 32 today.

Apart from SpiceJet, Jet Airways, which is already facing severe financial challenges, has already grounded four more aircraft over non-repayment of dues.

Overall, Jet Airways’ 19 aircraft were grounded in February over non-repayment of dues to lessors, while 13 aircraft were grounded this month, taking the total to 32.

The Jet Airways Group operates a fleet of 123 aircraft. However, around 50 planes are said to be non-operational due to a number of reasons, including a lack of spare parts.

IndiGo, meanwhile, is facing a shortage of pilots, leading to a truncated flight schedule. Earlier, the airline said that 30 of its flights which have been affected represent only 2 percent of its network. It has curtailed its schedule till March 31, by about 30 flights a day.

“These medium-term cancellations have been made to minimise the impact on passengers as alternative travel options have been offered well in advance. The operations will be normalised by the start of the summer schedule,” it said in a statement.

Air India too has grounded 17 aircraft due to technical reasons for some time now.

Yesterday, the government had advised domestic airlines not to go in for predatory airfare pricing as several 737 MAX aircraft were grounded due to safety reasons.

“We have advised the airlines… that they should not use it (grounding) as a reason to jack up their fares. They have promised they will go as per normal routine. DGCA has just said that it will be monitoring all the sectors very closely,” Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola said.

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