Soaring airline fares to stabilise in April with more jets in air
With Jet Airways preparing to resume flights with 41 aircraft grounded on account of non-payment to lessors, SpiceJet hoping to get more aircraft on lease following the grounding of 12 Boeing 737 MAX planes over safety concerns, and IndiGo seeking to reduce the number of cancellations due to pilot shortages, the coming months could see a fall in air fares or, at the least, a return to normalcy, spelling relief for passengers.
“February and March have seen high airfares, with an average increase of 35-40% on airfares across key sectors. The partial closure of Mumbai and Bengaluru airports and daily cancellations and grounding of planes by airlines led to a 5% decrease in seat capacity,” said Aloke Bajpai, CEO and co-founder of ixigo, a travel website.
That resulted in a sharp increase in fares — by 40-50% for same-day fares and, in some cases, up to 200% for last-minute fares, according to airline executives. That is expected to change now. “With Jet announcing operations of 75 planes by next month and airlines tackling pilot shortage issues, airfares are expected to normalise soon. Our data shows that if grounded planes resume operations, airfares can dip by 15-20% April onwards,” Bajpai added.
Caught in a financial crisis, Jet, with at least ₹8,000 crore of debt on its books, started grounding aircraft in January. It is estimated to have grounded 41 planes. IndiGo, India’s largest airline by passengers flown and flights operated, has also announced cancellations of 30 flights per day until March 31.
Then came the crash of the Boeing 737 MAX in Ethiopia that resulted in the grounding of all of the new-generation Boeing aircraft. SpiceJet grounded 12 aircraft and scrapped 30 flights a day.
Spokespersons for Jet Airways, IndiGo and SpiceJet did not respond to queries e-mailed to them.
“Airfares are expected to come down given that constraints on the supply side will ease out with deployment of additional aircraft by airlines, as also the reopening of the runway in April, leading to an eventual stabilisation of both domestic and international schedules,” said Indiver Rastogi, president and country head, corporate travel, Thomas Cook India Ltd.
During the worst of the crisis, a last-minute ticket to Pune from Delhi was costing around ₹35,000-40,000. It normally costs around ₹7,000.
Jet Airways executives said that while operations to Bhuj, Mangalore, Bhopal and Aurangabad, which were completely shut following grounding of aircraft, will resume from March 31, the frequency of flights to metro cities, which had been curtailed, will also increase.
“The initial impact borne by consumers in terms of inflated price due to reduced seat availability owing to various reasons will moderate. This is mainly because of companies restarting operations; with increased flight options the fare hike of 15-20% noted initially will get adjusted. Additionally, with summer travel around the corner, the capacity expansion will come as a relief to individuals looking to travel during this time,” said Sharat Dhall, chief operating officer (B2C), Yatra.com, a travel website.
Executives at IndiGo and SpiceJet confirmed that the number of flight cancellations will go down from April 1, leading to more seat availability and a reduction in fares.