Air India’s successive flight cancellations has been a blessing in disguise for many foreign airlines, which have seen an unexpected spurt in revenues thanks to a hike in air fares.
Airfares to the most popular international destinations have gone up by around 40 percent as in this peak holiday season and flights are almost full. This comes after a 20 percent airfare hike on the domestic sector.
Beleaguered Air India extended till Thursday the bar on bookings for its West-bound flights, as it mulled the option of shutting down global operations till a resolution is found to the week-long pilots’ stir. On day seven of the agitation by over 200 pilots, 14 international flights were cancelled, bringing no end passenger woes. On Monday, AI again cancelled international flights, including flights to New York, Newark, London, Jeddah and Riyadh.
The airline, which had stopped taking bookings for flights to North America and Europe till Tuesday, extended the period till May 17.
This has resulted in a 20 percent increase in fares for international flights due to a demand-supply mismatch. Not only are spot fares climbing up, but very few seats for the US and Europe are available on other airlines. Travel agents told DNA that Etihad Airways, Qatar Airways, Egypt Airways and British Airways are among the airlines that are making huge profits as a result of Air India pilots’ strike.
Air India is the largest Indian carrier in the international sector and the only carrier that offers, apart from US-based United, direct flights to the Unites States and Canada. And since the strike has occurred in the peak travelling season, competing international flights are making merry by hiking air fares.
About 500 people bound for the US via Air India do not know whether their flights will take off as scheduled or get cancelled, Zelam Chaubal, director of a travel and tour company in Shivajinagar told Times of India.
“Seats are not easily available on flights to London, Europe and the US and those available are at higher fares. Those who have booked group tickets on Air India are also facing problems. These are discounted tickets and now with Air India flights cancelled they have to book on other airlines and tour costs are rising,” Pradip Lulla, ex-president, Travel Agents Federation of India told Business Standard.
The national carrier has already firmed up a contingency plan that would see curtailment of daily international operations by more than half. It plans to operate seven daily West-bound flights instead of 16 which were being run earlier and they would operate to North America with one stop in Frankfurt, Paris or even London. These flights would be operated by executive pilots.
The airline also plans to wet lease some aircraft so that it can operate 4-5 more daily international flights, as part of the contingency plan.