Mumbai: Private airlines are making the most of the ongoing Air India strike by charging exorbitant airfare three to four more than the actual prices from the flyers. The demon of arbitrary fares is back to haunt and fleece flyers again, this time riding on the back of the AI strike.
Apparently, a long debate on regulating ticket prices a few months ago had little impact on the minds of private airlines, always eager to make the most of a crisis like this one.
As air fares on all routes record an all-time high, MiD DAY gives you a low-down on the arbitrary rates. An informal survey of six important routes suggests that airfare has increased by over two-three times since the strike started.
A Go Air ticket costs Rs 18, 128 on the Mumbai-Delhi route, the busiest sector operating more than a hundred arrivals and departures daily.
It's not a fair deal even for the passenger flying on Air India flights only a few of them are operating as they have to cough up Rs 13, 889 for the national carrier. Average fare on the route is Rs 4,000-7,000.
Airfare is also shooting through the roof on the Mumbai-Bangalore sector, which operates more than 50 flights a day.
If a Go Air ticket costs Rs 14,608, a Jet Airways flight will leave you poorer by Rs 13,890. However, average fare on this route is Rs 4,000-7,000. Take the case of the Mumbai-Hyderabad route where Jet Airways is charging Rs 12,644 while Jet Lite is quoting Rs 11, 452. The average fare on this route is Rs 5,000-7,000.
Devang Sanghvi of Venus Holidays said, "As the strike is progressing the fares are like to shooting up further. At present, airfare is two to three times higher than that of the actual rate."
Will the flyers raise the issue with the civil aviation ministry? Sudhakar Reddy, president of Air passengers' Association of India (APAI), said, "The airlines are trying to take an undue advantage of the current situation.
In the next meeting of economic advisory council, we are going to take up the issue very strongly. No one will be allowed to charge the arbitrary fares from the passengers. I strictly condemn this act of airlines."
"My flight for Delhi has been cancelled. Now, I have to book a ticket on a different flight by paying three times more than the actual price. I had taken five days leave to spend some time with my family at Delhi and one day is already lost. I don't know what to do," said Nirbhay Kumar, a software Engineer from Mumbai.
Kamal Kikani, vice-president, customer services, Go Air, said, "I do not think that the airfares have shot up due to the strike of Air India pilots. It is the holiday season, a very busy season for the airlines, so the rates are higher marginally."
Spicejet, chief commercial officer, Samyukth Sridharan, said, "Our fares are always in tune with published tariffs. In the past few days, we have not seen any trend of the fares going up. It will be wrong to call the fares arbitrary.