Private airlines Jet Airways and IndiGo joined the race for low-fares, offering their customers hefty discounts, after Air India rolled out a similar offer to challenge Vistara, the latest full-service entrant in the domestic market.
Incidentally, the domestic operators are engaged in a fare war at a time when the government is mulling a cap on the minimum and maximum fares to check both "over charging" and predatory pricing by the airlines.
While low-cost airline IndiGo has launched a 90-day advance purchase scheme, offering a starting fare of Rs 1,647 (for Delhi-Lucknow sector), the Naresh Goyal-promoted Jet Airways has offered fares as low as Rs 1,832 (excluding taxes) for a one-way journey on the busy Delhi-Mumbai sector.
The Jet Airways discount offer is available for the tickets booked between today and January 18, for travel between January 16 and April 15.
National carrier Air India had on Monday announced discount for an upto 50 per cent across its domestic routes for a limited period.
"With the Air India sale kick-starting a huge uplift in bookings, Jet and Indigo have joined the bandwagon with sales of their own, targeting early bookings for the upcoming summer season and the numerous long weekends over the next few months," Travel portal Yatra.Com President Sharat Dhall said.
This is a bonanza for travelers planning breaks during the long weekends around holidays for Republic day, Valentine's Day, Holi, and Easter, he said.
In addition, travelers, particularly from South and West India, are using these low fares to make early bookings for the summer holiday break, he said, adding, "With an approximately 35 per cent reduction in airfares, the response has been tremendous with close to a 400 per cent increase in bookings on our site."
"Steps may be taken to fix minimum and maximum air fares. There is a need to fix a cap on the maximum air fare of economy class at a reasonable price of around Rs 20,000 beyond which the airline should not be allowed to charge, exploiting the passengers' urgency for travel due to various reasons," the Civil Aviation Ministry said in internal note recently.
The government is of the view that some of the companies are in danger of facing huge losses due to the huge discounts in fares with some of the fares not even covering the operating costs, the note said, which came in the aftermath of budget airline SpiceJet knocking at the government doors for help after being grounded for one full day due to cash crunch in December last year.