The month of October had traditionally been a strong season for air traffic. But this year, domestic passenger traffic declined steeply by 15.7 per cent in October. Industry players and aviation analysts say that the reason behind this is a combination of factors, including high air fares and a slowing economy.

The air fare jump was nearly 30 per cent as compared to last year, according to aviation experts. The grounding of Kingfisher Airlines, which had 19 per cent market share last year, has had an impact on the soaring air fares.

“Though Indigo and SpiceJet have added capacity, the presence of an additional airline makes a difference in the air fares, especially during the peak season,” said Sanjay Bhasin, Managing Director (MD), Goibibo, online travel portal.

According to data submitted by various airlines, the number of domestic passengers dropped to 45.55 lakh in October from over 54 lakh during October 2011.

Looking ahead

While the festive month of October could not bring cheer for the aviation sector, airlines are thinking out-of-the-box to woo passengers through various deals and offers. “Airlines like IndiGo, Go Air and Air India have offered discounts of up to 50 per cent that has prompted travellers to make their bookings for the coming year between January and March, 2013,” said Pratik Mazumder, Head of Marketing and Strategic Alliance, Yatra.com.

Air India that strengthened its market share to 20.8 per cent in October had launched its special promotion scheme in order to attract travellers for the lean period of January to March. The sale that was open for three days from November 19 to 21 was available for travel on more than 325 city pairs. The fares, inclusive of all taxes, under this scheme ranged from Rs 1,799 to Rs 4,199.

Under the scheme, some of the fares in specific routes included, Chennai—Delhi: Rs 3,699; Delhi-Kolkata: Rs 3,699; Chennai-Mumbai: Rs 2,699; Delhi-Mumbai: Rs 3,699; Chennai-Kolkata: Rs 2,699; Kochi-Trivandrum: Rs 1,799; Chennai-Pune: Rs 1,799; Imphal-Guwahati: Rs 1,799; Kolkata-Bhubaneswar: Rs 1,799 and Mumbai-Ahmedabad: Rs 1,799.

While Air India is on an aggressive path to regain its market, other players like Jet Airways have also come up with schemes for the lean season ahead.

Innovative schemes

Jet Airways recently introduced short-haul “One Fare Pass” for domestic travellers. The “One Fare Pass” booklets contain four coupons that will be applicable for travel in both Premiere and Economy Class on domestic flights, less than 750 kms in distance.

The four-coupon “One Fare Pass” will be valid for sale from November 21 to March 31, 2013. Travel validity is six months from the date of issue. Each coupon will have equal value and will be equivalent to the cost of an air ticket in over 120 sectors.

The Premiere class booklet will have a total value of Rs 49,216 (inclusive of all taxes). The Economy class “One Fare Pass” will contain four coupons worth of Rs 19,606 for Jet Airways and Rs 17,254 for JetKonnect (inclusive of all taxes). The coupons will be more beneficial for corporate travellers, making last-minute bookings and for travellers making bookings during weekends or holidays, when the fares are usually high.

Apart from giving seasonal offers, no-frill carrier IndiGo, the market leader in terms of the number of passengers carried, increased frequencies in the existing domestic and international routes.

In a recent seminar on aviation in Mumbai, Aditya Ghosh, President of IndiGo, had said airline fares were fairly high during the fiscal and many carriers deployed their capacity on international routes. Ghosh said that IndiGo deployed 12-13 per cent of its capacity on international routes.

The airline has applied for more international routes, but its focus will remain on increasing frequencies on the existing international routes, Ghosh had said.

nivedita.ganguly@thehindu.co.in

(This article was published on November 25, 2012)
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