Those looking to travel to India can expect increased airfares to some sectors, starting March 26. This is because Air India and Air India Express are aligning their networks causing several Air India flights to Kozhikode, Indore, and Goa to be cancelled and for them to be replaced with Air India Express flights.
Air India spokesperson P.P. Singh said it was a decision taken purely based on feasibility. “We have to see our various permutation and combination and see where we can fly to,” he said. “Based on whatever has been decided by the headquarters, they have realigned the flights. We'll be doing more flights to Delhi and Bombay.”
According to local travel agents, ever since the news of this change came out, flight prices to several sectors in India have already increased. “Those who were looking to travel this summer will have to shell out a much higher price for tickets,” said Afi Ahmed, managing director of Smart Travels.
“Also, this causes a lot of inconvenience to passengers with limited mobility as Air India was the only Indian flight that had the capacity to transport those travelling in wheelchairs. That is going to be a significant impact.”
Air India has shared a new schedule of flights in a notice sent out to travel agents:
Local travel agencies have called this decision by Air India disappointing. “Air India has slowly been withdrawing from various sectors, especially in Kerala,” said Sudheesh, the general manager of Deira Travels. “They are no longer flying to Kannur or Trivandrum. Starting March 25, they are going to stop flying to Kozhikode.”
Sudheesh says this is going to be a setback for the Indian community. “Instead of a full-service carrier that has a bigger cargo capacity and can carry structural case (wheelchairs), they are getting a smaller, low-cost carrier,” he said. “A full service carrier also allows for higher flexibility. This will definitely cause an increase in ticket prices this summer and beyond.”
Earlier this month, Air India downgraded their flights to Kochi from the Dreamliner aircrafts to a smaller A321 aircraft, a fact confirmed by the Air India spokesperson. “We have redirected those Dreamliner aircrafts to fly to Mumbai and Delhi,” said Singh.
According to Sudheesh, this has several unfavourable ramifications. “Now, those flying to Kochi wishing to travel by business or first class can only fly Emirates,” he said.
It was in January 2022 that the loss-making national carrier Air India was taken over by Tata Group. Since then, there have been several changes within the airline, including a round of voluntary retirement service offered to employees and a mammoth order for new aircrafts last month.
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