MUSCAT: Travellers from the Arab Gulf, including Oman, to many Asian destinations, are hit as many airlines have either grounded their aircraft, like Jet Airways, due to cash constraints or following instructions on not to fly Boeing 737 Max 8, leaving the passengers with fewer options.
Hundreds of Non-Resident Keralites who annually bring their children to Arab Gulf from India during the April-May summer vacation back home are running from pillar-to-post to get a seat.
And additionally, those who have planned travel home from the Arab Gulf with family are also hit.
Cancellation of IndiGo, Oman Air grounding aircraft, Jet Airways halting operations have left travellers from Oman with fewer options.
The travellers are forced to purchase tickets to Indian destinations at higher prices.
“Clearly, there is a 200 percent increase in prices when we make a comparison. But we don’t have many choices. IndiGo has halted operations. Jet Airways is not flying. A few numbers of Oman Air flights are grounded. So, what can be done? Pay whatever the airline asks and fly,” a passenger told The Arabian Stories.
“Many have dropped travel plans and have invited their families from India to Oman to have a good time during the Summer vacations. But it seems that is also not going to happen as airfare from Indian destination to the Arab Gulf is also going up,” the passenger added.
Airlines flying from Kerala have hiked fares to cash in on the demand for seats.
One-way fares from Thiruvananthapuram, Cochin and Kozhikode international airports to the various destinations in the Arab Gulf, that was in the range of ₹6,000 to ₹12,000 earlier this month, have gone up by 200 to 400% and seats are unavailable in the economy class in the airlines.
According to industry analysts, this hike in fares from the gateways of Kerala is unprecedented.
Airlines cash in on the demand for seats by increasing fares to the Arab Gulf destinations every summer but they had been limiting it to 50 to 100%.
For a one-way economy class ticket from the three international airports to the destinations in Arab Gulf on April 1, the day after educational institutions close after the academic year, the fare is in the range of ₹21,998 to ₹ 88,705.
An economy class ticket in Emirates from Thiruvananthapuram to Dubai is available for ₹69,438 and ₹88,705 to Doha in Qatar Airways.
A sign of cartelization is reflected since all airlines, including foreign and Indian carriers and the Kochi-headquartered Air India Express, have increased the airfares.
The option of flying out from Chennai and Bengaluru international airports to Arab Gulf after proceeding in a train from Thiruvananthapuram has also been plugged with the airlines hiking the fare from these gateways also.
Many Non-Resident Keralites prefer not to waste time and are left with no option but to buy the expensive ticket to fly their relatives.
The grounding of over 75 aircraft by Jet Airways, SpiceJet, GoAir and IndiGo have also compounded the problems as over 500 flights have been cancelled.
The directive of the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to withdraw Boeing 737 Max 8 as a safety precaution following the Ethiopian Airlines plane crash has aggravated the situation.
Meanwhile, officials from Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh have said that travel cost of Middle-East bound Bangladeshi workers has increased at least three times in the last few months, as a number of foreign carriers stopped operations from Dhaka.
“Due to seat crisis, airfare in different destinations in Middle Eastern countries has been increased to around Tk 60,000 from Tk 20,000 in recent times, affecting workers the most,” said SN Manzur Murshed, president of Association of Travel Agents of Bangladesh.
ATAB is a platform of the country’s 3,500-odd travel agents involved in ticketing, visa processing, hajj, and Umrah operations.
The ATAB chief said seat crisis at different airlines took the worst shape since February on destinations including Jeddah, Riyadh, Dammam, Madina, Dubai, Doha, Bahrain, Muscat, Kuwait, and Sharjah.
“We have also come to know that Emirates Airways and Qatar Airlines have decided to reduce the weekly frequency of flights due to their internal problems,” Murshed said, adding, “The latest decision of Jet Airways to stop operation from Dhaka will worsen the present seat crisis.”
The ATAB president said the crisis was created following halt of operations from Dhaka by Etihad Airways, Fly Dubai, Oman Airways and now Jet Airways.
He said the seating capacity decreased by 1,000 per week to the destinations as a result.
Besides, demand for seats on the routes has increased a lot at present, due to upcoming Eid-ul-Fitr and the increasing number of Umrah pilgrims from the country.
Pointing to Jet Airways’ recent decision to stop operations from Dhaka for cash crisis, the ATAB chief said different travel agents have bought around 5,000 tickets of the carrier on different routes including the Middle East.
“Due to Jet Airways’ sudden decision, many passengers who have already left Dhaka for Middle East destinations on Jet Air, have been facing problems to return,” the ATAB chief said.
At the briefing, ATAB leaders said they don’t get tickets on the routes even after offering two to three times higher prices.
They said workers are at risk of losing jobs, as they are not getting tickets to join work on a due date.
“Besides, the country is also losing foreign currency due to price hike of tickets,” said the ATAB chief.
In its eight-point recommendation, ATAB urged the government to take initiatives so that different airlines increase flight frequencies to Middle Eastern countries from Dhaka.
It also urged the government to invite new foreign carriers to introduce operations from Dhaka on different Middle Eastern routes.
ATAB also urged Biman Bangladesh Airlines to reduce its frequencies on non-profit routes and increase flight frequencies to the Middle East.
The other recommendations include making Biman Bangladesh Airlines’ reservation system automated and decreasing airfare for migrant workers.
Around 2,000 passengers travel towards the Middle East every day, according to ATAB.