KOCHI: The exorbitant fare being charged by airlines for a trip to Kerala has burnt a huge hole in the pockets of Malayalis working in the Gulf countries. Unable to visit home in the past two years as flights were grounded owing to the Covid pandemic, most of the expats have no option but to shell out the extra bucks to meet their loved ones back home.
Expats looking for a ticket from Dubai in mid-July have to pay anywhere between Rs 20,447 and Rs 81,154 reach Kochi or Rs 16,673 and Rs 64,243 to arrive at Thiruvananthapuram. A Doha-Kochi flight ticket is priced between Rs 27,259 and Rs 59,763 while a Doha-Thiruvananthapuram flight ticket costs between Rs 26,820 and Rs 73,096 for the same period.
Though the airfare from Gulf countries to Kerala always shoots up between every July and September, this is the first time it has shot up so much, said tour operators and frequent flyers. “The fare increases during the time as schools in Gulf countries close for summer vacation and families there come to Kerala. This is followed by Eid al-Adha (Bakrid),” said Ramesh Mathew, who returned from Doha a couple of years ago. Tour operators cite the rise in fuel prices and fewer flights by Indian airlines as reasons for the hihg fare.
“As per reports, air-turbine fuel prices have jumped 140% in the past 12 months. Even domestic flights cost more. The maximum airfare from Kochi to Bengaluru, Chennai, and Mumbai was Rs 3,500 earlier. It is now between Rs 5,500 and Rs 7,500,” said K N Shastri, founder of a Kochi-based tour agency. An official of IATA Agents Association of India said Indian airlines need to increase the number of flights between for airfare to come down.
‘Social security scheme will help expats’
“The flights between India and the Gulf countries are largely operated by foreign airlines. Air India and IndiGo operate some services, but the majority is handled by foreign firms. Indian airlines need to add more services for airfare to drop,” said the official. Some tour operators said the flow of tourists from neighbouring states has come down due to the high domestic airfare and fewer trains.
Girish Kumar, former president of the Indian cultural centre functioning under the Indian Embassy in the Qatar-Doha region, said the majority of the Keralites in Gulf countries work blue-collar jobs. “They have to spend a major chunk of their saving to buy a ticket to Kerala. If the companies employing them introduce a social security scheme in agreement with the Indian Embassy, like the one in the Philippines, the financial burden of the expats can be reduced to some extent,” he suggested.Last month, the Chief Minister had written to the Prime Minister seeking his intervention on the exorbitant airfare.