The Bold Voice of J&K

Skyrocketing airfares affects domestic middle-class tourists’ access to Kashmir

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MASROOR AHMAD

SRINAGAR: Airfares have tripled on some domestic routes in India due to reduced competition. In the past five years, several airlines like Jet Airways and GoAir or Gofirst have winded up operations due to financial, technical problems and bankruptcy, and the revival of these two airlines is close to zero. With only one or two airlines operating many routes these are becoming more expensive routes and people are not in a position to afford luxury flight tickets.
Skyrocketing airfare for Kashmir have turned the excitement of hundreds of tourists into dismay as the dream destination is becoming an unattainable luxury for many potential visitors.
Kashmir for decades has been a heaven for travellers, who seek solace in its serene valleys and embrace the warmth of its culture. But as demand soars, once affordable flights have become out of reach for middle class tourists.
A return air ticket form Delhi – Srinagar to Delhi these days costs anywhere between Rs 20000 to Rs 22,000. This makes some holiday destinations abroad such as the UAE , Thailand and Malaysia look cheaper with return air tickets per person costing as low as 18000.
Skyrocketing airfares have forced many tourists to visit Kashmir by bus this season. ”We have travelled to Srinagar form Gujarat in our own car as air tickets were so costly .A group of tourists from Gujarat told STATE TIMES that they could also go to Dubai at such a price.
He said there should be capping on airfares so that more and more tourists can visit Kashmir.
“We do not expect this as all are private airline companies and the government has no control over these companies; how can we demand the government to take up this matter with airline companies,” he said. Tourist Traders Association is also in dilemma after seeing skyrocketing airfares to Kashmir, he said, adding that this airfare was affecting the flourishing tourism industry in the Valley.
“We have seen business flourishing in the past two and half years. Hotels, guest houses, houseboats are full and Shikara and Ponywallas all were happy but unfortunately this airfare hike affects the industry during the peak season”, he added.
On an average 12,500 passengers travel to and fro in 74 flights to Srinagar daily these days which is 3000 more compared to winter months – January and February.
Last year, a parliamentary panel had asked the government to maintain a perfect balance between the commercial interest of the private airlines and the interest of the passengers. It was done to enable the private airlines to grow and at the same time the interest of passengers be kept in mind so that they are not fleeced in the grab of commercialization.
However, airline companies argue that the surge in prices was simply reflection of supply and demand, pointing to the high costs of fuel and operational expenses. They cautioned that any attempts to regulate prices could lead to reduced flight availability and ultimately harm consumers.

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