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Boeing 737 Max grounding: Airfares could rise 30% for last-minute travel

Sai Manish/ 13 Mar 19 | 02:41 PM

A worker stands near a Boeing 737 MAX 8 airplane parked at Boeing Co.'s Renton Assembly Plant, Monday, March 11, 2019, in Renton, Washington. Photo: PTI

With the grounding of Spicejet's 13 Boeing 737 Max aircraft, the Indian low-cost carrier now finds itself battling skyrocketing fares. On key routes, Spicejet fares are way above Air India and other full service and premium carriers like Vistara. 

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For long Spicejet’s fares have been amongst the lowest in line with other low-cost airlines like Indigo and Go Air. The airline's 76-plane strong fleet has taken a big hit with the grounding of these planes. According to a travel portal official, fares across all airlines could rise in the coming few days by at least 30 per cent for last-minute travel. The official added that the impact of the grounding of Spicejet’s Boeing 737 MAX planes in addition to the grounding of Indigo planes due to pilot shortage and Jet Airways’ troubles could have a cascading impact on airfares.

An indication of the same can be borne out from Spicejet’s fares alone after the DGCA’s decision. On the most popular New Delhi-Mumbai route, Spicejet’s one-day advance fares have touched almost Rs 14,000 for a one-way flight. For a no-frills airline, this is a debilitating blow. That’s because its competitors like Go Air and Indigo are charging passengers Rs 7,500 for the same ticket booked a day in advance on this route. Even full-service airlines like Air India, which generally has fares higher than others, is charging less than Spicejet for the same ticket – around Rs 7,800 when booked a day in advance to fly to Mumbai from Delhi.

ALSO READ: Boeing crisis gets deeper as India joins others to ground 737 MAX jets

On New Delhi-Kolkata route, Spicejet is now charging passengers twice the amount that one would pay to fly a full-service airline like Vistara. Spicejet’s fares on New Delhi-Kolkata route have ballooned to over Rs 11,000 when booked a day in advance. Carriers like Vistara and Air India have priced their tickets at Rs 7,500 and Rs 9,000, respectively. Even on the popular Mumbai-Bengaluru route, Spicejet’s fares now equal that of full-service carriers like Air India. When booked a day in advance, both airlines are offering fares of almost Rs 6,200. It must be noted that Air India serves complimentary meals on board while low-cost Spicejet charges passengers for everything on board.

On the New Delhi-Chennai route things are no different. Chennai was the headquarters of the erstwhile Kalanithi Maran-owned airline before the embattled carrier was acquired by Ajay Singh – one of the minds behind Narendra Modi’s winning election campaign in 2014. Though the Maran connection is gone, Spicejet’s New Delhi-Chennai fares are the lowest among all key trunk routes connected by the airline. Yet they are not the lowest when compared to others. On this route Spicejet’s tickets when booked a day in advance are priced at almost Rs 7,300 – lower than full service airlines like Jet Airways, Air India and Vistara. Yet, it’s the highest among its principal low-cost competitors – Go Air and Indigo. Perhaps a saving grace for Spicejet is on the New Delhi-Hyderabad route where its fares are still the lowest among all airlines.

On Tuesday night, India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) grounded all Boeing 737 Max planes in India – in line with what United Kingdom,  China and some other nations have done. While Spicejet operates 13 of these planes, Jet Airways operates five of them. Jet’s planes have been grounded due to financial reasons meanwhile Spicejet operated these fuel-saving narrow-bodied ‘sophisticated planes’ on the hugely popular and lucrative New Delhi-Mumbai sector.

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