Kolkata: Coronavirus spooks domestic flyers, airlines forced to slash fares – Times of India

Kolkata News

KOLKATA: The Covid-19 outbreak — and the resultant nosedive in passenger traffic — has forced airlines to slash domestic fares, about a month after international flights.
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Industry insiders said ticket sales had dropped 15% to 20% over the past fortnight, and airlines started to lure passengers through fare cuts. While some carriers are rationalising flights on sectors, grounding planes doesn’t necessarily minimise loss.
“The fares have been slashed to increase occupancy,” said an airline veteran. “Seats are a perishable commodity,” he explained, adding, “Once a flight takes off, the revenue against unoccupied seats is lost. Thus, whatever a carrier can garner from the sale of such seats adds to its coffers.” He said airlines have had a certain degree of comfort from a fall in oil prices, as fuel accounts for nearly 45% of an airline’s operational cost.
Some airlines announced sales and sold tickets at rock-bottom fares to fill up empty seats; others reduced fares by as much as 25% to 30%.
Though passenger loads and fares are traditionally low during the examination season in February-March, they pick up in April and are very expensive in May. The current scenario, however, was unfo-reseen. The fares are around Rs 2,700 for a flight from Kolkata to Delhi; Rs 3,400 for a flight to Mumbai; and Rs 3,300 for a flight to Bengaluru in April and May.
Maximum fare lower than usual minimum fare
“I haven’t seen immediate fares on all sectors dip this low,” said Manoj Saraf, managing director, Gainwell Travels. “Nor can I recall such low fares, with less than a month to go for schools to shut for summer vacations.”
The fares are so unbelievably low that some were tempted to book a trip, when none was planned. “We were thinking about travelling to Europe this summer, but that was before the novel coronavirus scare,” said Amit Ghosh. “Last month, we decided against taking a break at this point. All that deliberation changed when I was casually browsing airfares. It was such a steal that I couldn’t help myself.” Ghosh booked three return tickets to Bagdogra for less than Rs 3,500 each, or under Rs 1,800 one-way.
Even return fares during the weekends this month are a bargain. One can buy a return ticket to Delhi at just over Rs 6,000; to Mumbai at a little over Rs 6,500 and to Bengaluru for less than Rs 7,000. In fact, the maximum fare on offer on all the sectors, too, are lower than the usual minimum fare at this time of the year.
Travel Agents Federation of India chairman (east) Anil Punjabi says hotel tariffs have also touched an all-time low due to low bookings, enabling people who can muster the courage to enjoy a bumper holiday at dirt-cheap prices. “You can actually stay in a five-star property at less than what you would pay for a three-star accommodation in summer,” he said.
Internationally, fares have declined to a decade’s low, with return fares to UK and Europe at Rs 52,000, down from Rs 65,000-Rs 75,000, and to the US at Rs 70,000 against Rs 1.25 lakh. Yet, there are no takers, because of the novel coronavirus and uncertainty over how long the problem will last.

Source: https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/city/kolkata/virus-spooks-domestic-flyers-airlines-forced-to-slash-fares/articleshow/74585092.cms