The ongoing Kingfisher Airlines crisis has hit commuters on non-popular routes connecting Mumbai to tier 2 and tier 3 cities the most, as this sector was once a forte of the debt-ridden airline.
As KFA’s partial lockout entered the second day on Tuesday, tour operators said that cost of travel has gone up significantly on these routes. While on the more popular routes, travellers have a wide variety of airlines to choose from, on smaller routes, Kingfisher is among the most dominant ones.
“Now, business fliers on these routes are forced to book 14-16 days in advance as there is a 15% difference in fares while booking,” said Anup Kanuga, owner Bathija Travels.
“If a business trip is planned on short notice, I prefer to travel by train, because last minute fares are unaffordable” said Borivali resident Priyesh Thakur who would shuttle between Mumbai and Surat.
Connectivity between smaller cities, such as Nanded, Aurangabad, Bhubhaneshwar etc was once a Kingfisher forte. However, the series of crises faced by the airline, including piling debts and frequent strikes by employees, have given an opportunity to other domestic airlines to begin operations in the sector. Since April this year, domestic carriers have increased connectivity across smaller cities.
Spicejet Airlines introduced flights from Mumbai to Nanded and Aurangabad in April. The no-frill carrier also started similar flights between Calicut and Thiruvananthapuram and Chennai to Port Blair.
Indigo Airlines also started a flight from Mumbai to Chandigarh and Vishakhapatnam — sectors facing shortage of seats after Kingfisher stopped services this year. The budget airline also started flights from Delhi to Pune and Guwahati. Among full service carriers Jet Airways started direct flights between Mumbai and Amritsar.
According to travel agents, connectivity on short haul domestic routes will increase as these centres have been generating healthy passenger loads. “We hope other airlines tap into this market in the coming travel season,” said Jay Bhatia, western region chairman, Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI).