India-UK sky-high airfares: DGCA seeks report from airlines but situation to remain till more flights allowed

India-UK sky-high airfares: DGCA seeks report from airlines but situation to remain till more flights allowed

NEW DELHI: The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has sought India-UK airfares in August from airlines, following the outcry over a massive hike in the same starting Sunday when the UK reopens for Indian travellers after a 3.5-month-long hiatus.
The data collected by the DGCA on Sunday shows the minimum one-way economy class fares on Delhi-London nonstops during August. It ranges from Rs 1,03,191 to Rs 1,21,356 for Vistara and Rs 1,28,916 to Rs 1,47,544 for British Airways on different days this month. For Air India and Virgin Atlantic, the minimum fare this month is Rs 1,15,936 and Rs 1,28,916, respectively.
However, aviation insiders say airfares will remain steep till the currently allowed weekly cap of 30 direct flights between the two countries is raised. Apart from allowing more flights under the India-UK air bubble and then the increased capacity leading to fall in fares, there is no regulatory power under which the government can ask airlines to lower fares.
“International airfares are neither regulated nor monitored as they are dependent on demand and supply,” said a senior official.

“(The DGCA) data (is) based on airfare available on British Airways website for August, 2021. Tickets were available only for August 22, 24, 28 and 31, 2021 on BA website. At present, only limited flights are available on this sector as scheduled international operations are suspended till August 31, 2021 (for now),” said a senior official.
‘Fares to start dropping from mid-September’
Airlines say increasing flights allowed between India and the US is the only way to reduce airfares on a sustained basis. Fares will temporarily start dropping from mid-September by when the rush of people who need to travel like students and others like family members is over and then rise again whenever demand goes up for whatever reason.
“Pricing is always a function of supply and demand. There are only 15 flights a week allowed currently on India-UK route for Indian carriers and when there is relaxation and more capacity allowed, (that) will automatically bring down prices,” said a Vistara spokesperson.
A combination of four factors — 30 weekly flights between the two countries; pent up demand for travel for almost 3.5 months since UK restricted travellers from India; ongoing peak student season and requirement to travel nonstop between the two countries for a majority travellers under current air bubble rules — has led to fares spiralling.
After a severe Covid outbreak in UK last December, India has since this January allowed 30 weekly scheduled flights — 15 by Indian carriers (Air India and Vistara) and as many by British carriers (British Airways and Virgin Atlantic). On April 23, 2021, UK put India on its red list during the devastating second wave here. This meant Indian citizens were not allowed to enter UK. And a handful of categories exempt from this restriction like British citizens/residents going from India needed to quarantine in a hotel on arrival in the UK for 10 days.
From Sunday, India has moved to the amber category of UK under which travellers from India will be allowed without any need for a mandatory 10-day hotel quarantine as they will be allowed to do so at their homes or other paces of stay in the UK. The opening amid pent up demand has led to fares spiralling.

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