Air passengers face the grim prospect of high air fares and fewer flight choices as several airlines have cancelled operations for a number of reasons, including the grounding of the Boeing 737-MAX aircraft.
“With an unprecedented number of planes now grounded due to various factors, reduction in seat capacity has led to an increase in fares overnight. Last minute airfares on Wednesday increased to more than 100 per cent on some key routes like Delhi-Mumbai, Mumbai-Chennai, Mumbai-Kolkata and Mumbai-Bengaluru as compared to same time last year,” said ixigo Co-founder and CEO Aloke Bajpai.
“Spot fares for Mumbai-Chennai are touching Rs 26,073, as opposed to Rs 5,369 the same time last year. High airfare patterns are expected to continue in the short-term with Holi and summer school holidays round the corner, resulting in increased demand.” According to Sharat Dhall, COO (B2C) Yatra.com, civil aviation regulator DGCA’s decision to ground the Boeing 737-MAX aircraft has resulted in a fairly significant impact on airfares for immediate travel on certain key routes.
“While overall fares were already on the rise by 15-20 per cent, we have noticed a variable pattern in spot fares with spike in fares on routes such as Mumbai-Hyderabad, Mumbai-Delhi and Delhi-Kolkata.
“With current increase in load factors, this reduction in capacity, we expect the airfares to rise further in the short to medium term,” Dhall said. Operations of airlines like SpiceJet and Jet Airways have been hit due to the government’s decision on Wednesday to join a global grounding of 737-MAX aircraft following a crash in Ethiopia.
In India, SpiceJet and Jet Airways operate 17 Boeing 737-800 MAX aircraft -- Spice (12) and Jet (5). A part of Jet’s fleet has already been grounded due to other reasons. The grounding led SpiceJet to cancel 14 flights on Wednesday. This number is expected to touch 32 on Thursday.
Apart from SpiceJet, Jet Airways, which faces financial challenges, has already grounded four more aircraft over non-repayment of dues to lessors, taking the total to 32.
The company in BSE filings has said its 19 aircraft were grounded in February over non-repayment of dues to lessors, while 13 aircraft were grounded this month, taking the total to 32. The Jet Airways Group operates a fleet of 123 aircraft.
However, around 50 planes are said to be non-operational due to a host of reasons, including lack of spare parts. IndiGo is going through massive turbulence on account pilot shortage, leading to a truncated flight schedule.