As Jet Airways comes to a halt, airfares for New Delhi take offThe last-minute airfares to New Delhi shot up to as high as Rs50,000 after the shutdown of Jet Airways last week. Hundreds of passengers have since been affected by high airfares while travel agencies say it may go up further if the seat shortage gap is not taken care of immediately.
Narayan Sapkota was planning to fly to India to see his relatives this week. But he couldn’t believe it when he discovered the airfare for a flight that barely lasts an hour and a half.
“I was totally shocked. It was unbelievable that a flight from Kathmandu to New Delhi would cost Rs50,000,” the computer operator from Chabahil told the Post. Sapkota immediately cancelled his plans to visit his relatives and has been waiting for the airfare to go down.
“If the airfare does not come down, I still have an option—travel by road,” said Sapkota, who recalls paying Rs9,000 when he flew to Delhi last time.
Many passengers travelling to the Indian capital say they are dumbfounded by the sudden increase in airfares, said Deepak Basnet, managing director of Innovative Travel Nepal, a travel agency in Naxal. “Most of them have begun to abandon their trip after hearing the rates. But some people who are compelled to travel are forced to pay the exorbitant airfare.”
New Delhi is the major gateway for the flights to Nepal, commanding nearly 25 percent of a total 4.34 million annual air passenger movements to and from Nepal. According to travel agencies, all flights in the Kathmandu-Delhi sector have been sold out for April 22 and 23, and the airfare for the sector is at a historic high.
“Some airlines are taking advantage of the seat shortage after India’s Jet Airways suspended its flights globally, including Nepal, last week,” Basnet said.
The last-minute airfares to New Delhi shot up to as high as Rs50,000 after the shutdown of Jet Airways last week. Hundreds of passengers have since been affected by high airfares while travel agencies say it may go up further if the seat shortage gap is not taken care of immediately.
Nepal’s national flag carrier, Nepal Airlines, has planned to step in to fill the market demand, and according to aviation officials, will increase its flight frequency to double daily from the existing 11 weekly flights to New Delhi starting May 1. However, officials were quick to add that the plan was only a verbal commitment and there hasn’t been a formal preparation to increase flights starting next month.
The crunch for flights to Delhi comes amid Nepal Airlines’ plans to operate a VVIP flight carrying President Bidya Devi Bhandari and her delegation to Beijing on April 24. Some officials say deploying an aircraft to China for two days may further create problems in its daily flight schedule.
Bhandari’s charter flight is expected to cost $145,000 and is expected to return after the delegation disembarks in Beijing a day later. An official at the corporation said that the return flight of President has not been fixed yet.
Suspension of flights by Jet Airways, India’s largest private sector airline, has caused a 40 percent reduction in weekly flight capacity. Jet Airways used to operate three daily flights in the Delhi-Kathmandu sector and two daily flights from Mumbai to Kathmandu.
In Jet’s absence, India’s budget carrier Indigo Air has been cashing in on the demand, with airfares almost as high as a premium flight on Jet Airways. An economy class flight on Indigo Air for April 26 from Kathmandu to New Delhi is currently selling for Rs50,000, a travel agent told the Post. Normally, it costs Rs15,000 for a one-way trip from Kathmandu to Delhi on Indigo Air.
A quick review at airfares for Indigo showed a flight on May 1 was available at Rs37,000. On the same day, Nepal Airlines and Indian Airlines seats are available at Rs24,000 and Rs35,000 respectively.
“As Nepal Airlines and Indian Airlines are the state-owned carriers, their fares are normally fixed,” said Basnet.
Despite the sudden increase in airfare for outbound flights [travelling to Delhi from Kathmandu], travel agencies said there hasn’t been a huge change in the inbound flight [travelling to Kathmandu from Delhi] prices compared to last year. The March-May period is one of the peak tourist seasons in Nepal, and airfares for inbound travellers normally cost Rs30,000 for the Delhi-Kathmandu sector. The average normal fare in the Kathmandu-Delhi sector is Rs15,000 and during the off-season, it drops to an average of Rs9,000.
According to Indian media reports, the country’s other budget carrier, Spicejet, has announced the resumption of Delhi-Kathmandu flights.
However, Subash Jha, deputy director at the Air Transport Division of the Civil Aviation Authority of Nepal, said Spicejet has not formally applied for flight permit yet.
As some airlines started to increase the airfare haphazardly, the aviation regulator on Sunday held a meeting with their representatives. The airlines’ representatives, however, said that only 40 percent of seats they were selling were for a higher fare.
An official at an Indian carrier told the Post that the airfare has not only increased for Nepal flights but also in most of the Asian countries after Jet Airways pulled 700 flights daily from its network.
“It has led to a huge gap in the demand that led the airfare to go up,” the official said, asking anonymity because he wasn’t allowed to speak to the media.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the Indian governmental regulatory body for civil aviation, has also asked Indian carriers to control their airfare bys increasing their flight frequency. “Unless the supply side improves,” the official said, “the airfare is not going to come down.”