MUMBAI: A sudden bonanza greeted travellers on Friday as competing airlines slashed one-way domestic airfares to most destinations to Rs 2,100. The unexpected reduction caused a mad rush to online travel portals, with people scampering to book tickets while the seats and the low fares lasted.
Airlines’ officials clarified that the fares were lowered for a few seats on every flight between February and April. Also, reservations have to be made by January 13. Nevertheless, the 40-50% cutback in ticket costs proved to be considerable and a major lure.
Round-trip fares from Mumbai to Delhi were trimmed from the usual Rs 7,000-9,000 to around Rs 4,000 from February 1 to April 30. Tickets to other popular sectors too were made available at similar rates.
The carriers’ move, travel experts believed, was triggered because of the anticipated low passenger loads in the coming months. Lean holiday travel numbers of December 2012 had created a sombre mood among carriers and they were expecting a dull period ahead. “This is why fares have come down for a while. Airlines are neck-and-neck in competition to attract flyers. If one carrier lowers fares, others are bound to follow,” said Rajesh Rateria, managing director of Cirrus Travels.
Other budget airlines may also bring down fares: Tour operators
The decrease in ticket prices was sparked on Friday morning as low-cost carrier SpiceJet announced a special fare of Rs 2,013 for all domestic destinations across its network from February 1 to April 30. This means that a return trip during this period would cost just Rs 4,026. The airline put up for sale about 10 lakh seats under the special fare, of which it sold around 1.5 lakh seats on Friday.
Soon, another budget carrier, Indigo, also began offering discounts on a few but busy sectors during the same period, said tour operators. Though the airline did not go on record to announce the discounted fares, a sudden drop was noticed on many sectors such as Mumbai-Delhi, Mumbai-Kochi and even Mumbai-Goa.
Tour operators said the competition between the two carriers will benefit flyers as other budget airlines may similarly slash ticket prices. A Mumbai-Delhi return trip on other low-cost airlines between February and April is likely to cost around Rs 4,200-4,500. A trip to Goa from Mumbai will be priced in the range of Rs 5,000-6,000, and Mumbai-Jaipur tickets are liable to be available for Rs 5,000-6,000.
Travel experts said that after a major hike during Diwali airfares had remained grounded during the Christmas and New Year holiday season. “The travel season had been sluggish. Fares have been exceptionally low in January, despite it being domestic travel season. This explains why airlines are trying to ensure that their seats do not go vacant in the coming months,” said a south Mumbai travel agent. “Low airfares will continue till the demand for summer holidays picks up.”
An official from a private carrier admitted the drop in fares was primarily precipitated by the “expected low passenger traffic. Hence, we are filling up certain seats at a lower rate”.