Lack of Spice has many complaining across India.
Passengers of the cancelled SpiceJet flights across Tier II, III cities are either unpacking their bags or are staring at the soaring flight rates of competitors, unable to zero in on a wallet-friendly, fall-back option.
Indore is one of the cities that has been hit hard.
The airline has cancelled Indore-Delhi flights until December 17. The company spokesperson told HT, “The flights, SG 2721 Delhi-Indore and SG 2722 Indore-Delhi, have been cancelled. The company is restructuring its fleet of Boeing 737 aircraft, so some flights have been cancelled”.
Though the company will make full refunds to fliers, those who had to catch a flight on Tuesday or Wednesday could end up buying tickets from other flight operators at more than four times the rate at which they bought the ticket from SpiceJet.
Against a refund of Rs 3,500 for the economy-class ticket booked in advance, the spot fare in Jet Airways’ Tuesday evening flight for Delhi was upwards of Rs 15,500. Similarly, the fare for Wednesday’s Indore-Delhi flight was Rs 6,734 for tickets booked a day in advance. Jet Airways, Air India and Indigo are other airlines that operate daily flights from Indore.
On Tuesday, the airline cancelled around 82 flights across the country. The airline has slashed the number of daily flights across the country to 275 from 340 it had during ruddy days. Across India, the cash-strapped airline, which is part of Kalanithi Maran-led Sun Group, has axed over 1,800 flights scheduled till December 31. It reported fifth straight quarter of net losses for the July-September period at Rs 310 crore, though they have managed to pare down the losses.
Another city that has been facing the turbulence is Dehradun. Since the last two weeks, Spicejet had been flying only one 78-seater flight between New Delhi and Dehradun. And it had almost 100% occupancy, said aviation expert Pankaj Shah.
Earlier, SpiceJet had two flights on the route. According to Shah, the SpiceJet decision is a big blow to local commuters. Besides SpiceJet, Air India (2 flights) and Jet Connect (3 flights) fly on the New Delhi–Dehradun route. The airfare on the route is around Rs 6,000. And it might skyrocket after the cancellation of Spicejet services.
“From seven flights a day to five is definitely going to pinch the pockets of commuters flying between the national and the state capital,” Shah said. Manish Raina, a techie from Dehradun, said, “It’s a major setback to commuters like me because SpiceJet used to offer connecting flights beyond New Delhi”. He said it could also affect tourism.
The worst-hit state is probably landlocked Tripura. The state is highly dependent on flights for travel, particularly to Kolkata and Delhi. Besides, Tripura has been experiencing a six-month mega railway blockade since October because of the gauge conversion works in central Assam.
Spice Jet has also notified the Airports Authority of India about the cancellation of its two of its flights operating between New Delhi and Lucknow from December 11.
And the proverbial last nail came after the Airports Authority of India reportedly put the airline on cash-and-carry mode. SpiceJet owes AAI around Rs 200 crore. Sources at Chandigarh airport, where SpiceJet cancelled two flights, said it had put the airline on cash-and-carry mode. It means the flight operator will have to pay money in advance for every landing and departure while other airlines have a one-month credit facility. The cancellation of one flight results in a loss of around Rs 1,00,000 to AAI, the landing charge being Rs 30,000 per craft.