Airfares continued to pinch pockets on Friday as the strike by Air India pilots entered its third day. “I am repenting going on vacation. This is going to be my most expensive holiday,” said Riten Desai, who paid an extra Rs 12,000 for re-booking his three-member family on a private carrier after Air India cancelled its flight.
The city-based stockbroker had no choice because he had already paid for a weeklong stay in Kerala. Desai was amongst thousands of travellers who lost money because the national carrier cancelled 76 flights in and out of Mumbai airport on Friday. “We are going crazy re-booking people on alternative flights. Thousands are losing money because the strike has hit air traffic in the middle of peak holiday season,” said Rajesh Rateria, managing director, Cirrus Travels.
Airfares for Saturday flights soared with metro routes going at double the normal rates. For instance, an economy class one-way ticket from Mumbai to Delhi touched Rs 18,000. Fares between metros and Tier 2 cities — Mumbai-Ahmedabad, for instance — more than tripled.
Another reason for the hike in fares for Saturday is the five-hour closure of both runways at Mumbai airport for repairs. The closure for repairs on the stretch where both runways intersect has resulted in at least 120 flight cancellations across all domestic carriers.
Friday was less harrowing for passengers compared to the first two days of the strike. Many cancelled trips or put travel plans on hold. “We postponed our trip by a week soon after the strike began. That spared us the harassment of overpaying at the last minute,” said Viraf Sethna, who was scheduled to visit Bangalore on Friday. With just over two dozen pilots reporting for work, the national carrier managed to operate only 39 flights of its 320 daily services.