Subrat Dayal spent three times more on his Chennai-Mumbai trip compared to his colleague who flew to Delhi on November 16. The Khar-based businessman spent Rs 18,000 for a one-way economy class ticket in a full-service carrier, while his colleague paid only Rs 6,500 for travelling double the distance. "My travel budget for this quarter will definitely be a problem," said Dayal.
Dayal is among the thousands of people flying in and out of Mumbai and feeling the pinch because airfares are going through the roof, thanks to the festive rush and drop in the number of flights owing to repairs on Mumbai's main runway.
The Hindustan Times had on September 21 reported that fares were likely to soar because the Ministry of Civil Aviation cut 12 domestic flight slots at Mumbai, which meant a reduction of at least 1,200 seats per day.
As a result of the high demand and reduced capacity, be it for flights on busy metro routes or to Tier 2 towns, fares have jumped by 100 per cent in several cases.
For instance, an economy class Mumbai-Delhi - the sixth busiest air corridor in the world - ticket for Friday was selling for Rs 17,200. A one-way business class journey on the route would cost you more than a return trip to Malaysia. Similarly, a one-way ticket to Ahmedabad from Mumbai costs Rs 13,200.
"There is a definite rise in demand, so fares are bound to be high," reasoned Anup Kanuga, owner of Bhatija Travels at Grant Road. "Reduction of capacity at Mumbai airport has added to the pressure."
Switching to a low-cost carrier won't help either. "The fare difference between a budget airline and a full-service carrier is approximately Rs 1,000," said Kanuga.
Travel trade sources said that airlines nowadays divide their economy class seats into 10 to 12 price bands. This means that people buying tickets 15 days before the journey get the lowest price. "When the demand is high, the ticket goes to someone ready to spend the most," said a travel agent requesting anonymity.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation on Wednesday asked airlines to explain the sudden increase in airfares within two days.
Airlines denied charges of opportunistic pricing. They claimed that the fare range had been submitted earlier to the aviation regulator. "Our fares continue to remain the same as on regular days. Because we offer a range of fares, as each flight gets filled up on account of demand and higher occupancy, the fare levels on that flight naturally migrate to the next higher bracket," said a Kingfisher Airlines spokesperson.