Air India's belated generosity in waiving the cancellation fee for passengers canceling tickets booked on the airline till May 16 is likely to push airfares higher.
The 10-day pilot strike was called off on Friday. However, earlier in the day, the airline decided to waive the Rs750 cancellation charge per ticket, as a “contingency measure,” as it could operate only 10% of its pilots during the strike.
Travel agents are expecting thousands of people booked on AI domestic flights to cancel their ticket and switch to private carriers.
“Airfares will definitely go up because the passenger load on private carriers is likely to increase in the next few days,” said Jay Bhatia, western region chairman of the Travel Agents Association of India.
Already, travel agents are getting daily cancellations ranging from 10 to 30 for AI bookings, added Bhatia.
The move, however, came as a big reprieve for the thousands booked on AI flights, because the airline charges Rs750 per cancellation. “It is a big relief for a family for four,” said Dadar resident Santosh Panicker, who was cancelling his AI tickets for a holiday to Goa next week.
An airline spokesperson said that it operated 55 flights, largely comprising domestic operations, and some flights to nearby foreign countries such as Dubai and Hong Kong on Friday.
“We have also transferred about 20,000 domestic and more than 9,500 international passengers to other carriers since the beginning of the strike. Hotel accommodation had been provided to more than 5,500 people from the disrupted flights,” the spokesperson said.
Apart from inviting tenders for aircraft on wet lease basis, the airline claimed that it would soon begin recruiting new pilots.
Wet lease is an agreement where an airline hires aircraft with crew, maintenance and insurance from other carriers on an hourly basis.