Oct 25, 2008

Lifestyle - India;Diwali in Kolkata?Fly to London instead

Siddharta Roy

If you are planning to fly to Kolkata for Diwali, be prepared to shell out four times the money you usually do. In fact, flying to Kolkata for Diwali is as costly as a flight to London.

After trains to Kolkata were cancelled following the unrest in Bihar, passengers are thronging airline counters to buy tickets. The huge demand has resulted in the ticket prices skyrocketing.

While normally a one-way air ticket to Kolkata costs Rs 5,000, the lowest tickets now are priced at minimum of Rs 20,000. A one-way ticket to London costs Rs 19,500.

Shreya Bannerjee, a 50-year-old housewife, had to visit Kolkata with her family for her niece’s wedding. After the Howrah Rajdhani on Wednesday got cancelled, she decided to travel by air.

“I was shocked to see the ticket fares. Even tickets of low cost airlines were selling for more than Rs. 20,000,” she said.

“I would have to shell out close to Rs 1 lakh if I travel with my husband and two daughters. This is insane.”

Bannerjee had no choice but to miss the wedding. “I will visit Kolkata next week and have booked train tickets,” she said.

Dwiraj Bose, a business manager with an MNC, is in an even desperate situation.

“I have to go to Jamshedpur to see my ailing mother. However, I was simply stranded after the trains got cancelled,” he said.

Bose tried booking air tickets to Kolkata, from where he would have taken a train, but discovered the prices were prohibitive.

“The tickets that were usually priced at Rs 5,000-6,000, were available for Rs 10,000 on Wednesday evening. By next morning, the prices rose to Rs 20,000 and more,” he said. “How can airlines that call themselves low cost, hike ticket prices so much?” Bose said.

Bose was planning to drive down to Jamshedpur in his Santro when Rajdhani services were resumed. He now has an unreserved ticket but is determined to leave.

“Prices are all about demand and supply. With trains cancelled and soaring demand, airlines hiked fares,” said Dhruv Shringi, CEO of travel portal Yatra.com. “Airlines, even low cost ones, are allowed the flexibility to do so,” he added.

An Air India spokesman said, “There is an overall surge in demand due to Diwali.”

“Even executive class seats are all full. We have seen 800 more passengers per day in the last two days,” he said.

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