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Brace up to pay more as air prices to go up during Independence Day weekend

Jul 19, 2017
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Air fares are expected to rise sharply in the week leading to August 15. Fares are expected to remain at elevated levels even after the long weekend as a slowdown in the pace of capacity addition gives airlines enough pricing power, executives at online ticketing firms and analysts said.

This year, Independence Day falls on a Tuesday. While it’s not out of ordinary for fares to go up during long weekends, the quantum of jump this time is expected to be higher as compared to earlier holidays due to a combination of factors, including a strong passenger load factor and long gap between two holidays.

The lowest fare from Delhi to Goa on August 5, for instance, is Rs 3,246, as compared to Rs 5,800 on August 12. “The yields for the airlines during this period, are expected to go up by 30-40%, said Sharat Dhall, chief operating officer of B2C Business at Yatra Online, Inc.

While the jump could be as much as 10-15% across all the sectors, it could be as high as 80% for tourist destinations, said Himanshu Periwal, vice-president, growth, at Ixigo.com, a travel search marketplace. “One has always seen a 40-50% jump in fares during holidays and long weekends, this time around, it will be higher,” he said.

Amid intense competition and lower jet fuel prics, air fares, in a majority of the sectors for most part of the year, have either remained muted or lower, driven by promotions and flash sales by the airlines. Airlines slashed fares across most routes to fill planes ahead of the lean season that started in June end.

India’s domestic aviation market expanded 21.8% in 2016-17—the second straight year air traffic growth exceeded 20%. The research arm of rating agency ICRA expects it to moderate to 13-15% in the current fiscal year.

Meanwhile, besides seasonal factors and one-offs, fares are also likely to go up as the capacity addition in the airline industry has slowed as compared to a year ago, said an analyst at a domestic brokerage. He declined to be identified. “When the capacity addition is less, there’s no urge to fill up the seats as there are fewer of them to be filled up and that may not come up at a discount,” he said.

ASKM (average seat kilometre), an indicator of capacity addition, has tapered off to around 15% in the June quarter this year as compared to 20% last year, said the analyst cited earlier.

Capacity addition, he said, has slowed owing to engine-related issues that market leader InterGlobe Aviation, which operates Indigo Airlines, is facing. India’s biggest airline grounded at least seven Airbus SE jetliners as it awaits fixes for Pratt & Whitney engines, joining several carriers around the world that have pulled the planes from service, Bloomberg reported on July 14.

Uncertainties regarding taxes on import of an aircraft have also impacted induction of newer planes. On an average, an operator will have to pay additional ₹10-12 crore per aircraft in additional levies, including the 5% duty on plane imports, said AirAsia India managing director and chief executive Amar Abrol at a press meet on July 4.

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