NEW DELHI :
Mumbai: Air passengers on Thursday stared at a possible future of prohibitive fares, especially for last-minute bookings, even as travel agents rushed to minimize disruptions caused by the grounding of Jet Airways (India) Ltd.
Wednesday’s suspension added to the capacity constraints that have been building up from the grounding of aircraft by other airlines also, in turn taking a toll on passengers’ pockets. The move also left more than 15,000 Jet Airways employees contemplating an uncertain future.
“For the first half of April, fares have been higher by 15% when compared to the same time last year. For last minute bookings, fares are higher by at least 18% (year-on-year) on an average. Some sectors have even witnessed fare increases of 40-50% (year-on-year) for last-minute ticket booking. With Jet Airways shutting operations, unless there is capacity induction, which is difficult in the short term, airfares for the busy summer travel season are expected to increase further," said Balu Ramachandran, vice-president of air and distribution at online travel portal Cleartrip.
Travel agencies are trying to minimize the disruption caused by Jet Airways' grounding, which has left many passengers stranded and staring at exorbitant fares for last minute bookings.
“We are ensuring that all our customers travelling on affected routes with pre-booked tickets are being accommodated by other airlines. We will continue to keep our customers appraised of all recent developments," said Daniel D’souza, president and country head, leisure, SOTC Travel.
The UK Civil Aviation Authority late on Wednesday issued an advisory for British nationals following the Jet Airways shutdown.
“A number of airlines offer flights with Jet Airways as a code share partner. If you hold a ticket for travel with Jet Airways, but purchased that ticket through another airline you should contact them to see what alternative arrangements they have made," it said in the advisory.
“If you booked directly with Jet Airways and paid by credit card you may be protected under Section 75 of the Consumer Credit Act 1974 and should contact your card issuer for further information. Similarly, if you paid by debit or charge card you should contact your card issuer for advice as you may be able to make a claim under their charge back rules," it said.
A large chunk of the capacity in the domestic sector recently took a huge hit because of the grounding of planes by national carrier Air India for maintenance and the grounding of Boeing 737 Max and Airbus A320 Neo planes.
The suspension of operations at Jet Airways, which had a fleet of 119 at the end of December, has added to these woes.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has asked airlines to increase capacity and keep fares in check.
Meanwhile, SpiceJet is all set to induct 16 Boeing 737-800 NG aircraft on dry lease in the coming days. The airline announced the launch of 24 new flights connecting Mumbai and Delhi on Thursday.
Air India has written to the State Bank of India (SBI) seeking permission to operate five Boeing 777 aircraft owned by Jet Airways, which are currently grounded.
“We are, therefore, exploring the possibilities of operating five of the grounded B777s on the following established routes, hitherto being operated by Jet Airways—Mumbai-London-Mumbai, Delhi-London-Delhi, Mumbai-Dubai-Mumbai, Delhi-Dubai-Delhi, Delhi-Singapore-Delhi," the airline’s managing director Ashwani Lohani said in a letter to SBI chairman Rajnish Kumar.
A copy of the letter has been reviewed by Mint.
Turbulent phase for staff
Jet Airways employees too face an uncertain future as a question mark hangs over the revival of the airline and payment of salaries. The airline has not paid salaries since January to a section of staff that includes pilots, senior management and engineers. Others haven’t been paid since March.
“We have sent a legal notice to the management," said a pilot with Jet Airways, who is also a member of the airline’s pilots union.
“We will work with the management till the situation is resolved," the pilot said under condition of anonymity.
On Wednesday, Jet Airways chief executive officer Vinay Dube said in a mail to employees that the management doesn’t yet have an answer to the question of what happens to employees during the sale process. “Your leadership team is working on answering such questions alongside the lenders," Dube said.
This story has been published from a wire agency feed without modifications to the text. Only the headline has been changed.