For domestic flyers, it's a fall season
With airfares on domestic routes spiralling, Indians are preferring to travel abroad than fly within the country for their Christmas and New Year holidays. Bookings have fallen by 5-8 per cent this season, as domestic air tickets have, become 20-30 per cent costlier, on an average, say executives of leading online portals.
Bucking the trend, however, have been international routes, bookings for which have surged in the month.
"The number of passengers flying in December might be higher than that in the previous two months, but 5-8 per cent lower when compared with the same period last year," says Cleartrip executive vice-president Noel Swain. According to him, a reduction in capacity and an increase in airfares are responsible for the decline in domestic traffic.
Yatra.com COO Sharat Dhall agrees demand for air travel within the country has been sluggish. "If there was a decline in October and November, December looks flat. After seeing the weak demand in last two months, we are not very bullish. We were not expecting a significant growth in air travel," he says.
Another reason for the slowing domestic traffic is a drop in foreign tourist arrivals this year. November saw a three per cent growth in foreign arrivals, compared with 10 per cent in the month last year. High fares and an economic slowdown in Europe are cited as reasons for a drop in arrivals. According to tourism ministry data, 690,000 foreign tourists visited the country last month.
International travel, however, is looking up, Swain says. "We have seen a rise in bookings for Dubai, Bangkok and Singapore in December. Capacity addition by low-cost carriers is one reason. From Mumbai, a Bangkok return ticket costs around Rs 17,000, which is only a little more than a Delhi return ticket," he adds.
According to travel agents, low fares are not available on the Dubai route, as flights are largely full. Return tickets to Dubai are now available for more than Rs 30,000, which is a premium of about 50 per cent."
Bird Group executive director Ankur Bhatia says: "The demand for domestic travel is down by 20 per cent on a year-on-year basis, whereas international traffic has risen 10 per cent. Overcapacity on some routes like Dubai, Thailand & Singapore is leading to great deals on some other international routes."
Photographs: Jason Reed/Reuters