Air travelers in India can expect to shell out 5-30 per cent more for flights this summer as airlines grapple with capacity cuts amidst rising travel demand and operational woes.

Industry experts predict a rise in airfare prices on popular routes. “With the busy season starting we could see upward pressure on Airfares due to the operational headwinds being seen by a few of the airlines,” said Jagannarayan Padmanabhan, Senior Director and Global Head, Transport, Logistics, and Mobility, Consulting, Crisil Market Intelligence, and Analytics. “The overall impact of this is going to be in the range of 5-8 per cent.”

Vistara on Sunday said it is cutting back on its operations, citing pilot pressure and on-time performance concerns. “We are cutting 25-30 flights per day, which represents roughly 10 per cent of our total capacity,” the carrier said on Sunday.

Adding to the capacity woes, IndiGo, another major carrier, has grounded 75 of its aircraft due to engine issues. These reductions come just as travel demand is surging for the upcoming summer holidays (April-June).

This could translate to significant price hikes for travelers. “Spot fares for popular routes have surged by 20-25 per cent on some routes due to rising demand before the peak summer travel season and temporary dip in capacity on certain routes due to some flight cancellations,” an ixigo spokesperson said. “However, this is a temporary disruption caused by last minute flight cancellations and we expect fares to stabilise in a few weeks as soon as flight schedules normalise.”

Early data appears to support these predictions. Online travel agency Ixigo has observed a significant surge in airfare prices. “Certain frequented routes could see a rise of anywhere between 5 per cent to 30 per cent for a one way flight,” it said. For example, Delhi to Mumbai flights have already seen an 8 per cent increase, jumping from ₹6,058 to ₹6,541.

Temporary spike expected

Experts believe this price increase is temporary. They anticipate fares to stabilise within a few weeks as airlines adjust their schedules and normalise operations.

Pent-up Demand Fuels Overall Increase

The higher airfare is just one aspect of a potential rise in travel costs this summer. Strong pent-up demand from travelers who couldn’t take trips during the pandemic is also expected to contribute to a 5-8 per cent overall increase in domestic travel expenses. This could lead some travelers, as Padmanabhan suggests, to choose trains for shorter journeys as a more budget-friendly option.

businessline reported last month that travel searches are skyrocketing, with EaseMyTrip observing a 150 per cent increase compared to last year and SOTC witnessing a 25 per cent year-on-year uptick in demand. This surge reflects pent-up demand from travelers who couldn’t travel during the pandemic.