Air fares on domestic routes have increased up to 100% with Jet Airways, IndiGo and now SpiceJet cancelling many flights, said executives at airlines and travel companies.

“Compared to last month, last-minute fares have risen by 50-100%, especially on the metro routes (such as Delhi-Mumbai),” said Balu Ramachandran, head of the air business at travel portal Cleartrip.com. “Several reasons, primarily the 8-10% decrease in capacity, have led to this,” he added.

“There has already been a year-on-year 15-20% increase in fares. Flights have been getting good occupancy rates. This cutdown in capacity has aggravated the rise in fares,” said Sharat Dhall, chief operating officer of the business-toconsumer segment at Yatra.com.

Earlier this week, SpiceJet grounded 12 of its aircraft on a direction from the Indian aviation regulator to stop flying the Boeing 737 Max planes, following the crash of an Ethiopian Airlines flight operated by the same make aircraft.

Meanwhile, Jet Airways has been forced to ground more than 45% of its fleet, primarily for non-payment of rentals to lessors as well as paucity of spare parts, according to people close to the development. Jet has consistently refuted the number. IndiGo, facing a shortage of pilots, has pre-cancelled 30 daily flights for the next few weeks.

A person close to the development said SpiceJet had planned an optimum use of its existing fleet of 64 planes. “Some Boeing 737 NGs (the previous version of the Max planes) and Bombardier Q400 jets were underutilised. It has optimised their use. Many additional frequencies are now being operated by these planes, thus minimising the impact of the cancellations,” he said. SpiceJet has cancelled also the Delhi-Kabul flight, because of the closure of the Pakistan airspace following the increased border tensions.

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The aircraft operated on that route, a 737 NG, is now deployed full time for domestic operations.

Moreover, some low-yield off-season international flights like Ahmedabad-Muscat have been withdrawn and the aircraft are being used to do multiple domestic flights. The airline has leased two planes along with crew. These will start operating from Saturday, further bringing down the cancellations, the person said.

Its network has been rejigged. On routes with less demand, the 78-seat Q400s have been put and the bigger NGs have been withdrawn and put on alternate sectors, he said. The airline has also clubbed some of the flights.





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