Image used for representational purpose
MUMBAI: Airfares for travel two weeks down the line have crashed, which is a first during the pandemic. Demand for air travel had slumped during the previous two Covid waves as well but fares hadn’t proportionately slumped, as back then the government had capped the fares for a much longer period.
Currently, domestic fares are capped only for a 15-day period. If you look up fares on Thursday (January 13), you will find cheap fares on flights scheduled from January 28. For instance, you’ll get a Mumbai-Goa return fare for about Rs 3,900 while Delhi-Mumbai return fare is Rs 4,700 (see box).
During the previous waves, fare caps had extended for a longer period. For instance, when domestic air travel had recommenced after a two-month ban on May 25, 2020, the government had capped the fares for three straight months till August 24, 2020. Thereafter, the government kept on extending the fare cap period. It was only in September last year that the government decreased the fare cap period from 30 days to 15 days. But back then, demand for air travel was picking up and so fares for travel more than 15 days down the line weren’t cheap.
In the past two weeks, though, with a rise in Covid cases, air travel demand has slumped and so for the first time during the pandemic, cheaper fares are available for travel two weeks out.
“Not many would wish to travel now, but this is the best time to book tickets for summer vacation,” said a low-cost carrier official, requesting anonymity. Till last month, domestic fares for travel in April, May and June 2022 were rather high, even though the travel date was over five months out.
“Once Covid cases go down, travel will pick up and so will the fares. We expect pent-up demand to push up fares for summer 2022 travel to unprecedented levels. We lost out two straight peak travel periods due to the Covid waves in summer 2021 and summer 2020,” he added. Forward bookings for summer travel done now will help airlines with much-needed cash, say observers.
But not all routes are cheap. Fares on non-stop flights to destinations such Leh, Srinagar, Port Blair, Dehradun and Bagdogra, among others, are high, while those for Lucknow, Patna aren’t cheap, being priced at Rs 8,000 for return fares.