Steep Air Fares Have Rly Officials Drooling
NEW DELHI: The news of the steep hike in air fares may not be music to your ears but Indian Railways officials are grinning from ear to ear. The cheapest flight ticket from the Capital to any other metro now costs more than twice the fare of air-conditioned travel by train and officials feel it is only a matter of time before the middle-class traveller, who left the tracks to join the queue in the sky, come back in droves.
Airlines increased fares regularly over the last couple of years but that usually was limited to the jump in taxes or fuel surcharge. Now, however, that has combined with the hike in basic fares as well as airlines scurrying to break even. And this, railway officials feel, may do the trick as the fresh round of hike has created a huge gap between air fares of even low-cost carriers and some of the most popular trains. An AC two-tier ticket in the Delhi-Mumbai Rajdhani Express, for instance, costs only Rs 1,975. The cheapest fare for a Delhi-Mumbai flight for the next weekend is priced at Rs 4,510 in GoAir. It is a difference of Rs 2,535 – enough, feel officials to make a difference for most travellers. Even a first-class AC berth in Rajdhani costs only Rs 3,305. That is, obviously, lower than next week’s Air India ticket to Mumbai (Rs 6,310) and much lower than even the cheapest low-cost airline ticket.
Punctuality is not a big problem any more with trains. A slight improvement in hospitality can help IR capture a huge chunk of passengers who have taken to flying on a regular basis, a senior railway official said. The fare difference is as stark for other sectors like Delhi-Chennai, Delhi-Bangalore and Delhi-Kolkata as well. An AC two-tier berth in the Delhi-Howrah Rajdhani costs Rs 2,010; the lowest air fare on offer is Rs 5,410.
Air Deccan is offering return tickets on the Delhi-Shimla sector for Rs 14,000. “Simla is just an hour-long flight from Delhi. Passengers prefer taking the train in such a situation,” said an official. “Specially at a time when families are out on vacation, spending two days extra in the train doesn’t pinch anyone, considering savings are so much more,” he added.
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