Few budget airlines have cancelled their flights to India.
Airfares for direct flights to major destinations in South India's Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi from Gulf region are set to surge, causing hassle to Indian families planning summer travel.
This comes after two major Indian flight operators cancelled as many as 39 services per week to Doha, Muscat, Abu Dhabi and Dubai from cities in India.
Once a key market for Jet Airways, the lower demand and high competition have made a good number of routes in the Gulf economically unviable, forcing the airline to withdraw operations from there, according to a report.
"Jet Airways has decided to withdraw its services to Doha from Kochi, Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram as well as to Abu Dhabi from Lucknow and Mangalore. Besides, the airline will also not operate on Mangalore-Dubai route. All these services are being taken out of operations from December 5," a source said.
Travel agents working in the Sultanate told Times of Oman that Jet Airways scrapped its direct flights to Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi in Kerala while budget airline Indigo has also cancelled its flights to Calicut and Chennai. Indigo now only operates flights to the Indian cities of Mumbai, Kochi and Ahmedabad. They also told that Jet Airways' direct flights from Oman to Mumbai and New Delhi are also likely to be cancelled.
"In these sectors, there will be fewer inventories for sale due to the cancellation of all these flights and there is a possibility of an increase in ticket prices," CEO of a leading travel agency said. This will adversely affect people looking to fly to these destinations as they might have to pay more money for direct flight tickets, as other airlines responded to the decrease in competition by inflating their own fares. Besides, people might also have to face long transit times awaiting for connecting flights.
"The decision to terminate the operations to Oman is a big decision made under surging fuel prices and the weaker rupee that is affecting India's leading carrier Jet Airways," said Sudeep Joseph, Head of Travel for Travel Point. He added, "Jet Airways' withdrawal will cut competition and thus reduce the scope for travellers to enjoy competitive ticket fares. Indian families will face challenges while booking their summer vacation tickets during the months of February, March and April. This will affect South India-bound traffic to Kochi, and Thiruvananthapuram."
While a senior official of the airline industry refuted claims that the fares have been hiked because of fewer flights. "People are only getting higher class economy fares, which sometimes reach 500 per cent," the official said. For example, passengers flying to New Delhi might have to pay as much as OMR227 for a one-way ticket, and face flying and transit times of up to 20 hours on one airline. Flights to Mumbai on the same airline are priced at OMR217, with the total journey taking upwards of 17 hours. In addition, flights to Thiruvananthapuram are being sold for OMR200, and tickets to Chennai will set passengers back by some OMR140. The cost of a regular ticket to Kolkata was OMR222.
In contrast, flying to Mumbai on Indigo Airlines would be possible for as low as OMR67, while Jet Airways flights to the same destination cost just OMR38. A travel agent in Oman said fares from Muscat to Mumbai (one way) began at OMR28 but soared to beyond OMR150 during the peak season.
While not foreseeing a decrease in passengers flying to India, Joseph said, "However, we don't anticipate a drop in India-bound passengers," he added. "We will work closely with impacted guests to notify them of the changes to their itineraries and re-accommodate them on alternative flights."