Toxic air makes flying out of capital dearer
Air pollution in Delhi has taken air travel back to the times when only the rich could afford to fly, domestic airfares departing from the capital have soared to an unprecedented high. The cheapest one-way fare from Delhi to Jaipur was Rs 14,000.
The worst destination to fly out of Delhi is Mumbai. On Wednesday, the cheapest one-way fare on offer for the same day Delhi-Mumbai non-stop flight was Rs 21,000; for travel the next day, fares began at Rs 17,000. Delhiites would be better off flying to Bangkok as the cheapest fare for travel the same day was priced at Rs 7,800. On the other hand, pollution has also made Delhi the cheapest city in India to fly into, with last-minute, one-way Mumbai-Delhi fares for same day travel starting at Rs 3,000, Jaipur-Delhi at Rs 1,600, Goa-Delhi at Rs 4,000 and suchlike.
When TOI checked the Delhi-Mumbai fares around Wednesday noon, the cheapest it could find for same-day travel was a Rs 21,000 fare. In comparison, the cheapest Mumbai-Delhi flight for travel the same day was priced at Rs 2,800, indicating a major dip in demand for flights bound for Delhi.
As airlines hike fares, activists cry foul
This shows the high fare on Delhi-Mumbai flight has nothing to do with the Mumbai main runway closure, which has led to cancellation of about 26 slots per day in Mumbai,’’ said a travel agent, requesting anonymity.
Among the passengers who were caught unawares on Wednesday was Shirish Deshpande, chairman, Mumbai Graham Panchayat (MGP), a consumer rights body. “Two of my colleagues and I were booked to fly Delhi-Mumbai on Thursday, but since we completed our work today, we decided to fly out today itself. But when we checked with our travel agent, we were shocked to learn that the 6.55pm departure from Delhi cost Rs 30,756 per passenger. Our Thursday flight tickets were bought for Rs 6,974 each last week,’’ said Deshpande.
Last-minute and 24-hour advance purchase fares on flights to most other domestic destinations too have gone up as well. For instance, the cheapest one-way fare from Delhi to Jaipur, which is 230km away, was Rs 14,000 (see box).
Aloke Bajpai, co-founder of ixigo, said: “High pollution levels have triggered outbound travel from Delhi to offbeat and eco-friendly destinations. We have seen a 25-30% increase in bookings and search enquiries for travel to places like Jaipur, Goa, Tamil Nadu , Karnataka, Mumbai, Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand. Extended school holidays due to pollution has also prompted families to travel. This increase in demand has led to a threefold growth in last-minute airfares from Delhi.”
Sabina Chopra of yatra-.com said: “With the air quality in Delhi deteriorating considerably and a health emergency being declared, travellers are looking for respite by travelling to various destinations. Hence, the spot airfares from Delhi to other domestic routes are on the higher side. Business travellers too are looking at postponing their business trips to Delhi and rescheduling them at a later time.”
Another travel agent, requesting anonymity, said: “The lowest business class fare bucket for a Delhi-Mumbai ticket begins at about Rs 27,000 to Rs 30,000. But economy class fares are being sold at that price now. Those passengers who need to fly out of Delhi urgently to cities like Mumbai, Jaipur and Bangalore due to family or medical emergencies would be worst hit as they would have to pay a huge amount to buy a seat.”
Deshpande deemed it a “massive exploitation of air passengers by airlines’’. “As a consumer organization want to know what the civil aviation ministry and civil aviation regulator are doing when all airlines including so-called lowcost airlines are resorting to outright blackmarketing of their seats in the market. Is this fair competition or cartelization where all airlines gang up to exploit air passengers with the aviation regulator remaining a mute spectator? We also want to know what role the Competition Commission is playing when airlines take undue advantage of market situation and keep exploiting airline passengers,’’ he added.