Four days after the Air India pilots' strike ended, exorbitant airfares continue to pinch domestic fliers.
Travel agents said that peak hour fares, which include fares of flights taking-off from Mumbai between 6am to 9am, are more than double the normal rates. For instance, a one-way economy class ticket between Mumbai and Delhi for Wednesday costs Rs15,000.
Though the government-run airline, Air India (AI) offered discounted fares to woo passengers to make up for the inconvenience caused to them during the recent 10-day pilot stir, still the occupancy rates remained poor. Private airlines attracted more passengers than the national carrier despite higher fares. AI flights on the Mumbai-Delhi sector are priced between Rs5,000 and Rs8,000.
"People are still sceptical of flying AI. They are willing to spend about Rs500 more on a private carrier," said Jay Bhatia, western region chairman of the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI). Bhatia added that fares are likely to be high till the month-end because of the holiday rush. Airfares out of Delhi are expected to rise from June because vacations begin around that time.
"I avoided taking an Air India flight because I don't want to take a chance with my crucial business trip to Chennai on Thursday," said Nerul resident Ranjit Kakade. The senior executive with a consumer goods company missed a deal because his AI flight to Delhi was cancelled due to the pilots' strike.
On Tuesday, AI operated 216 domestic flights out of its daily scheduled capacity of 320. The airline management had hoped that AI would bounce back to normalcy by Monday. However, they were unable to resume 100% flight operations owing to poor passenger load.