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    Default Tavel by air set to be costlier as hike in airfares on the anvil

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    Airfares have surged by 20-30 per cent on an average for metro routes as jet fuel prices have shot up and airlines are gearing up for a sharp hike in airport charges.

    The upward spiral is expected to continue as Kingfisher Airlines (KFA) has drastically cut down its flights, which will reduce the stiff competition for passengers, which has been forcing airlines to keep fares low.

    Airfares during peak hours on some metro routes have shot up by as much as 40 per cent. This includes Delhi-Mumbai, Delhi-Kolkata, Delhi Chennai and Delhi-Bangalore routes. Fares have surged between other metros as well. An airline official said that the hike in fares was required at this moment because commercial airlines cannot sustain the present airfare structure.

    Aviation regulator DGCA too expects a hike in airfares after Kingfisher reduced its domestic operations and decided not to fly outside India from March 25. The economy class airfare for the Delhi- Mumbai route is as high as Rs11,859 for Thursday (March 22). Similarly, fares for other metro destinations during peak hours has risen. Airfare for the Delhi-Chennai route will be available on Thursday for Rs12500 while it will be Rs10, 209 for Delhi-Kolkata and Rs10, 219 for Delhi-Bangalore. Earlier, fares for these routes were in the range of Rs4,500-Rs8,000 depending on the time of the flight.

    Sources said the aviation sector is heading for a sharp hike in airfares as major airports would soon be revising airport charges like navigation, parking and various airport facilities used by airlines. The Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (Aera) is expected to make a move soon in this regard.

    India's state-owned airport developer Airport Authority of India (AAI) which operates 125 airports-with 86 operational airports- has filed a tariff proposal before Aera demanding a hike in airport charges ranging between 100-400 per cent.

    "It is not unexpected. What do you do to sustain such hikes in cost of operations? Obviously, you have no choice but to hike fares. India is the ninth-largest and fastest growing domestic market in the world. But it is a customer driven sector as well and we are helpless. We can sustain only by rationalising fares," said a private airline official.

    Civil Aviation ministry officials said they have no jurisdiction over Aera's recommendations, or decision on airport tariffs. But DGCA officials said they would ensure that there is no steep hike in airfares.



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