One reason for the high fares was that the airlines, including the no-frill carriers, were cashing in on the severely curtailed services of the ailing Kingfisher Airlines.
While a special cell of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) monitors air fares on a regular basis, officials said the fares were “not higher than the (price) band submitted by the airlines themselves”.
The government argues that air fares were regulated by the market and not by it, though they could take action if the prices went above the submitted price bands.
On the busiest Delhi-Mumbai route on which the last-minute return economy airfares averaged about Rs 9,000-10,000 in February when Kingfisher was carrying out large-scale cancellations, now range between a low of Rs 11,300 and a high of Rs 22,800.
Similarly, on the Delhi-Bangalore sector, economy return fares rose from an average of Rs 12,000-15,500 to Rs 17,000-23,000. The Delhi-Kolkata route saw a jump from Rs 10,000-12,000 to between Rs 15,000 and Rs 18,000, while that for Delhi-Srinagar ranged from Rs 10,500 to as high as Rs 34,194.
The Delhi-Chennai return fare now ranges between Rs 15,000 and Rs 20,500, while that on the Delhi-Hyderabad sector between Rs 15,000 and Rs 19,000.
Most airlines showed that very few tickets were left even at the lowest fares now being offered.
Travel agents also confirmed the development, saying reduction of Kingfisher flights on some sectors have led to almost doubling of fares, with low fare buckets vanishing very soon. They also expected the fares to shoot up further when the holiday season actually began in May.
In a recent report, major consultancy firm KPMG had projected that the airfares were likely to rise further in the coming days as increase in service tax in this year's budget have made overheads like advertising, utilities and rents of aviation companies costlier.
Meanwhile, no-frill airline IndiGo has pulled out of the leading online travel portal MakeMyTrip and Jet Airways drastically reduced its inventory on the site, alleging it was continuing to offer “arbitrary and opaque fares” despite directives against such fares by the DGCA.
Offering opaque fares is a trade practice where a portal sells heavily discounted tickets but does not disclose the name of the airline until the payment is made by the customer.
Airline sources alleged this was being done to sell predatory-priced tickets offered by Kingfisher to revive its customer base. Kingfisher has already denied any such move.
A MakeMyTrip spokesperson said “we would like to maintain as before that fares and inventory on our website is controlled by the airlines. All fares are displayed as per the guidelines received and approved by airlines including the special fares that has been approved by the participating airlines.”
Terming the low fares as “blatant violation” of DGCA directives, an IndiGo spokesperson said “the arbitrary display of fares and opaque pricing is anti-consumer and in violation of DGCA norms and directives. We have raised this with MakeMyTrip on several occasions but, unfortunately, there has been no resolution. We were therefore left with no choice.”
A Jet Airways official, while maintaining that the airline has not fully pulled out from MakeMyTrip portal, said “we have limited the inventory available to them for sale.” The industry sources said Jet, which has a daily inventory of about 80,000 seats on its domestic and international routes, has severely slashed its ticket sales through this online portal.