Mumbai: State-run Air India has withdrawn a special low fare for passengers using its night flights within India, an early casualty of its merger with Indian Airlines, according to a senior executive at the carrier.
The airline has doubled the fares for domestic night flights in certain sectors and the average fare hike of all night flights could be around 70%.
This will make the fares for Air India night flights now comparable with day fares. For example, a passenger will have to pay Rs6,320 for a Mumbai-Delhi night flight now, instead of Rs3,300, a special lower fare offered until last month.
Air India, which primarily operates international routes, connects key Indian cities during the night.
Getting costly: Air India, which primarily operates international routes, connects key Indian cities during the night. (Ramesh Pathania/Mint)
For instance, it operates an very early morning flight from Kochi to Mumbai. The flight is used primarily to bring US-bound passengers from Kochi to the US flight from Mumbai. However, other domestic passengers who want to fly from Kochi to Mumbai could also avail of this flight. The airline was offering special night fares for such flights.
Air India connects Delhi, Mumbai, Kochi, Bangalore, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad and Thiruvananthapuram through such flights.
A senior Air India executive, on the condition of anonymity, said: “As a natural fallout of merger between Air India and Indian Airlines, passengers have lot of options now. They can take Indian Airlines flights during the day time.”
Air India and Indian Airlines, which operates domestic flights, are in the process of merging into a new company, National Aviation Co. of India Ltd, or Nacil. Once these two airlines become Nacil, all services of the airline will be grouped under the Air India brand.
“Air India has almost doubled the fares of night services to important cities. In certain cases, it has more than doubled the fares. Passenger response was positive when the fares were lower. Now, the airline is not getting full seat occupancy,” said Regi Philip, promoter of Cosmos Agencies, a travel agency firm recognized by International Air Travel Association. “Why would passengers opt a night flight losing sleep when they are getting comparable fares during night? The sole attraction of night flights was cheaper fares.”
Other airlines may not benefit from the Air India move as most do not fly passengers so late into the night or early morning.
In order to ease congestion at metro airports, the ministry of civil aviation plans to promote late night flights through incentives including a waiver of landing, parking and navigation charges at airports.