The Indian Railways are offering its passengers air tickets!
Keen competitors until now, the railways and the aviation industry appear to have joined hands. The Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) is selling air tickets on its website, tempting passengers with a 10 per cent cash-back offer and discounted airfare.
This comes in the wake of substantial inroads made by low-cost airlines, which have brought airfares on many major routes across the country down to a few thousand rupees, and made flying — once a luxury affordable only to the rich —affordable to a much larger base of travelers.
This has seen increasingly competitive fare wars between the railways and airlines. “A typical case study is the Mumbai-Delhi sector. After low-cost airlines made flying on this route affordable, the railways slashed prices on the Rajdhani Express, which connects the two cities. The airlines then further reduced rates — it had become quite an aggressive battle a few years ago,” a senior railway manager said on condition of anonymity as he is not authorised to speak to the media.
IRCTC said the battle is still on, but added that what they are offering on their website will also lead to cross-bookings.
“A passenger wanting to go from Chennai to Leh will prefer a train until Delhi, and a flight for the next leg of the journey. So we’re offering them both tickets at a single stop — on our website,” Rakesh Tandon, IRCTC’s managing director in Delhi told Hindustan Times.
“Also, if a passenger wants to buy an airline ticket and it is not available, he will check the railway option, thus leading to cross-bookings. So we’ve only opened up more avenues, we’re not moving away from rail bookings at all,” he said.
IRCTC’s western region head, Viren Singh said the focus of the railways is to supplement railway package tours with airline travel to draw more passengers.
“The airline package will help our railway passengers complete their tours and take them where the railways don’t go.”