It could well be a repeat of the summer trauma this winter, as domestic and international airfares for the upcoming festive season seem to be hitting inordinately high levels already.
Rates for next weekend, a long one due to the Gandhi Jayanti holiday falling on the following Monday, then closely followed by the Pujo/Dussehra break, and then Diwali in early November, are all already showing high rates, dampening many tentative festive travel plans.
The Cricket World Cup, starting in the first week of October and played at venues across the country, is another highlight which is seeing major traffic.
“We anticipate a surge in travel demand for October and November this year, primarily driven by a sequence of events and festivals, including the Gandhi Jayanti long weekend, Navratri, ICC World Cup 2023, and Diwali,” Aloke Bajpai, co-founder and group CEO of the travel aggregator ixigo told THE WEEK.
Officials at Agoda, another travel aggregator with a global presence, said that the year-on-year increase for October and November this year is 12 per cent. Agoda’s search data is telling — dates with the maximum number of searches are all for dates around upcoming holidays and festive days, either before the Gandhi Jayanti long weekend, or before Pujo.
Not surprisingly, Kolkata tops the list of destinations with the maximum prospective passenger interest in October, with it being the month of the Durga Puja. Besides other metros, interest also peaked in Goa, a perennial favourite, as well as Bagdogra, a gateway to the hills and vales of the North East.
“Due to heightened demand and limited capacity, advance booking fares for Diwali in November this year are already exceeding last year’s by 35-40 per cent on average,” added Bajpai.
For example, a one-way Mumbai-Delhi flight ticket for the Diwali period is going 22 per cent higher than what it cost during Diwali last year. The rates are even higher on other routes, like Mumbai-Bengaluru, for example, where rates have shot up 67 per cent.
And we are talking about rates nearly two months before the due date of flying!
For many Indians, it is a cruel repeat of what happened during summer vacations. Even as renewed interest in travel after the pandemic peaked during that holiday season, the crash of low-cost domestic carrier GoFirst (previously GoAir), as well as the consolidation in the market by dominant player Indigo (presently holding 63 per cent of the market) and that of the four Tata airlines streamlining operations, meant the discounts and low-cost fares which had transformed Indian aviation since 2003 may just be a memory now.
Making matters worse is also the fact that by no means is this a spike seen during peak seasons like summer, the festive season or the Christmas-New Year's period alone. High rates are now a round-the-year phenomenon, forcing some to even call for government intervention.