Amid peak tourism season, the skyrocketing airfares to Kashmir causes a worry among the people associated with the tourism industry who want government attention to the unfair airfare applied by different airlines.
Nisar Shah, chairman of the chairman of the Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Alliance said that many tourists aspiring to visit the valley have cancelled their plans due to skyrocketing airfares. “None of their fresh queries are maturing and all our potential clients are turning down the travel programme due to skyrocketing airfares,” he said and added halting of operations by Go First airlines has also added to their woes. In 2022, a record 2.7 million tourist arrivals were recorded in Kashmir.
Shah’s assertions were echoed by Manzoor Pakthoon, the Chairman of the Kashmir Houseboats Owners Association. “Despite already existing issues with tourist bookings, we are witnessing a huge decline in fresh bookings. Aspiring visitors find Dubai or other destinations economical as compared to Kashmir due to high airfares,” he said. Last year on an average 100 flights would operate to and fro Srinagar everyday and the average airfare between Srinagar-Delhi would range from Rs 4000 to Rs 5500.
However, the airlines have reduced the number of flights to 70 on the Srinagar circuit this year due to which the average airfare has risen to Rs 10000 to Rs 15000 on the same route. Adil Khan, a hotelier, alleged that airlines and travel agents were hand-in-glove in raising airfares. “They keep the tickets on hold and sell them at exorbitant rates at peak time. The government needs to put a cap on airfare. Otherwise, our sector will lose big time,” he said.
Not only tourism players, but students and desperate patients who have to travel outside the valley, have been adversely affected due to the skyrocketing airfares. Earlier this year a parliamentary panel had asked the civil aviation ministry to cap the upper and lower levels of airfares, and ensure that predatory pricing mechanism is not adopted by the airlines. The committee had observed that in the northeastern region and hilly areas including Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, the prices of domestic sector tickets are, sometimes, even more than the international airline sector prices.