KOCHI: Aneesh S, a Thiruvananthapuram native working in Bengaluru, has stopped taking flights from his hometown. Instead, the techie travels all the way to Kochi by train and boards a flight to Bengaluru from here.
Reason: This costs him at least Rs 1,000 to Rs 5,000 less. “There is a huge difference in airfare to Bengaluru from the two airports. The trip from Kochi costs Rs 2,000 to Rs 3,000, while from Thiruvananthapuram, it costs between Rs 4,000 and Rs 8,000,” said Aneesh, 27.
“For my last few trips, I have been going to Kochi, which is just four to five hours by train, and then flying to Bengaluru from there,” he said. Aviation experts attribute this difference in fare and the lower rates purely to competition between airlines.
“Right now, it’s just business tactics by the airlines. IndiGo, which operates more flights than others, holds 60% of the market share and Air India is competing with it,” said Biji Eappen, national president of IATA Agents Association of India (IAAI) and chief coordinator of Air Passenger Rights Forum.
‘Removal of airfare cap to be a disadvantage later’
“Smaller airlines are adopting Captain Gopinath’s model (Air Deccan) to survive by offering lower fares. There is a similar price drop on the Kochi- Chennai route as well,” Eappen said. Demand-based pricing is the most conventional pricing strategy in the airline industry. Airlines work out a pricing model on how much the customer and market will bear.
Often, airlines categorise passengers into two segments: leisure or business. Disparity and inconsistency in pricing are other factors that affect travellers. Flights rates are often at their peak in times of high demand, like during school vacations or festive seasons.
“However, the Indian pricing strategy is solely based on a new, calibrated dynamic system, a non-regulatory pricing policy that is beyond the purview of the regulatory authorities and the Competition Commission of India. The removal of an upper and lower cap on flight rates by the aviation ministry will give airlines more leverage to increase or decrease the fare at their whim,” said Eappen.
K N Shastri, a Kochi-based tour operator, said the removal of the airfare cap, though beneficial for flyers now, will become a disadvantage after some time if airline companies reach an understanding between themselves. “It remains to be seen how long passengers enjoy the advantage,” he said.