Advance purchases of air tickets for the October-December festival-and-holiday period, which is usually the peak season for airlines, have taken a hit as airfares continue to skyrocket.
Industry observers said sales at some ticket-sellers, particularly online travel sites like yatra.com, have slumped as much as 20-25%.
“People book in advance in order to get better deals on prices.
However, advance booking fares are currently high by around 20% compared to last year,” said a travel agent.
Agreed Sharat Dhall, president of yatra.com. “People are a little unsure about their travel plans with airfares going up and are adopting a wait-and-watch policy. The 30-day-plus bookings have seen a 15-20% drop.”
Lately, airlines had to opt for a massive hike in airfares due to rupee depreciation-related increase in operating costs like aviation turbine fuel.
According to experts, fare levels now are the highest in the last three years.
They said that if the airfares continue to remain at current levels, airline traffic growth may get hampered ahead of the festive season.
But some industry observers said any slower traffic growth may not have a significant impact on airlines.
Ashwini Kakkar, executive vice-chairman, Mercury Travels, said, “Airlines have already sold one-third of their seats through different schemes introduced in the last few months. So, they are assured of 66% load factor.
Out of the remaining seats, business travellers will travel despite the price hikes. The overall traffic may fall, but airlines have taken a calculated risk of hiking fares, which may have a limited impact.”
Industry players said that a large chunk of travellers is expected to shift to other modes of transport like railways as airfares threaten to become unaffordable.