Saturday, May 27, 2006

Flying low cost: Think again

I had a businessman style whirlwind return trip of Mumbai yesterday. It has been almost two years since I had travel out of the major airports at Delhi and Mumbai. While I have been exploring the Uttaranchal driving my car, Indian skies had witnessed a revolution. In these two years new private airlines such as Spicejet, Kingfisher and Go Air had joined the ranks of the Jet Airways, Air Sahara and Air Deccan. The low fare schemes had Apex fares, Dyna fares, and Check fares, etc. have brought a boom in air traffic in India. No of passengers traveling by air has increased manifold. There are enough aircrafts to fly you. But the frightening reality is that ground facilities were hopelessly short of tackling this surge. There have been no new terminals; all of the spaces inside the airports at both Delhi and Mumbai are crowded. There was hardly any seat and travelers had no option but to bid time standing, always looking out to capture any seat that gets vacated. With the increase in no. of airlines, the no. of X-Ray machines had to gone up occupying much of the vacant spaces. There is no scope to increase passenger amenities inside. The scene was almost same as in a railway platform, with only difference being the air-conditioned temperature.

This was just the trailer. The scene after security check was no better either. The weather was crystal clear. But literally all the flights have been delayed. The shops inside were doing brisk business by looting hungry passengers. Everything there sells at airport rates. This boom had really benefited them. Finally when my flight to Mumbai started off at the runway after 2 hours of delay what I saw was frightening. The pilot announced that our aircraft was fifth on the queue for take off. In between the take-offs there will be few landings as well. So the aircraft is expected to take–off not before another 15-20 minutes. Looking outside, I saw several waiting aircrafts on either side of the runway. Hardly a flight took-off when another landed. Even before the landed aircraft is completely out of runway, another takes its position for take-off. After waiting for almost half an hour in the queue, my flight finally took off. After arriving at Mumbai, the aircraft had to hover for 45 minutes before being able to land. The flight that should have taken 2 hours (with only 1 hr 40 min flying time) took us 3 hours 45 min. The return flight was slightly better as it took only 2 hour 40 min. I think The Rajdhanis and Shatabdis of Indian Railways have better on time track record.

There are enough aircrafts to fly you but not enough airports. Traffic congestion and clogged runways at all major airports delays any flight by an average of 45 minutes. Any delay in one sortie has a cascading effect in all subsequent flights of that aircraft. This eventually leads to cancellation of flights. This is more the case with low cost airlines like Air Deccan. The service has become at par with Indian Railway – NEVER ON TIME. One has to travel taking at least 2 hours of extra time.

Low cost comfort: Think twice
Air Deccan boost of the lowest airfare on India sky. Are you sitting happy after booking an Air Deccan ticket at 20% of the normal ticket price! Then it is time to worry. I witnessed two scenes yesterday. At Delhi, I saw that Air Deccan flight to Guwahati stands cancelled. Imagine those who might have booked tickets two months back. The second scene was worse. It was inside the departure lodge at Mumbai airport. What I understood is that Air Deccan had announced cancellation of a flight for which passengers had even completed security check. It was a virtual brawl at the Deccan counter inside. People were venting their frustration by shouting, sledging and pounding the desk. Few hapless Deccan staff was at the receiving end. God forbid, such situation should not happen with anyone. I could not see the final outcome, as I had to board my flight. I am told that if an Air Deccan flight is cancelled, they will just refund the fare and that is it. Deccan is not responsible for anything else. It is immaterial to them how you travel if your flight is cancelled. In that scenario you will be left with no other option but to cough up a lot to travel by some other flight.

Deccan advertises on its site that xxxxxx no of Rs.500/- tickets have been sold till now. Honestly speaking I have not met any person who has been able to purchase an Rs.500/- ticket on any sector. Have you met anyone?


Arun said...

Yes, I have met people who bought Rs.500 tickets. And I have met people who managed to travel way cheaper than normal prices. But I have never considered Air Deccan as an options for me because I really dread cancellations they make every day. What you saw is not one-off incidence but something very regular. When I am flying anywhere, I usually see the display showing some cancelled Air Deccan flight.

Sandeep said...

HI Rupankar,

Coming to your comment on the plight of Airports in Major cities. Think 10 times before coming to Bangalore then. Yes the condition instead of getting good, its going worst day by day. With the new International airport coming up in Bangalore, just imagine paying for taxi will be more then the actual flight fare (its good 50 kms out of the central part of city)

And YES, I have travel n number of times by Air Deccan with 500 rupees ticket. To your shock I have even travelled on ticket I purchased for Rs. 1 + 221.00 PSF tax. That makes 222 Rupees from Mumbai to Bangalore....but that was in September last year. In the recent months I have not seen any ticket coming that low for any sector.

India City said...

Good and an eye opener post..
Thank you for sharing.