Expats troubled by exorbitant airfares of return flights after Onam vacation

The average flight charge from Kerala to the Gulf is Rs 34,000. File Photo

Expats working in the Gulf have been hit hard by the skyrocketing airfares to the region due to high demand in the sector, with the Onam festival falling close to annual holidays there.

The average flight charge from Kerala to the Gulf is Rs 34,000. Non-Resident Keralites (NRKs), though, can fly to Kerala comparatively cheaply. The average airfare is Rs 6,700 during the period from August 25 to 28. But they have to dole out a big amount for the journey back.

While tickets were earlier available at lower rates, those to destinations like Muscat, Ras al-Khaimah and Fujairah airports have soared to over Rs 30,000 now.

However, the average ticket fare in the Mumbai-Dubai sector during the period from August 15 to 30 is only Rs 18,000. The airfares from Chennai and Bengaluru airports too are in the Rs 25,000 – Rs 30,000 range. The fares for direct flights to Qatar during the Onam week have risen to Rs 55,000.

Bus fares double; no takers for special trains
Keralites working in other states will be hit hard by the skyrocketing ticket prices this Onam. Bus charges from Bengaluru to Kochi during days just before Onam, from August 25 to 27, have increased to Rs 5,000. The private stage carriers are charging anywhere from Rs 3,300 to Rs 4,000 for travel to Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi, and Kozhikode from Chennai. The fares are right now in the Rs 1,800-Rs 2,000 range.

The Kerala RTC has announced 20 special services from Bengaluru on August 25, when the demand is expected to be at its peak. Even if 30% additional charges are taken into account, the ticket prices will still be only Rs 1,021. The ticket price is Rs 1,678 for the Multi-Axle service.

Also, no ticket is available on most trains from Bengaluru during the Onam week. Only waiting class tickets are available now. Since the special trains announced are on August 23, 30, and September 6, they won’t be of any use to a majority of the commuters.

Flight tickets are still available in the Bengaluru-Ernakulam sector on the eve of Onam in the price band of Rs 3,000 to Rs 5,800, that to Thiruvananthapuram at Rs 5,300 and Kozhikode at Rs 2,900. One can fly home from Mumbai for Rs 3,750-Rs 6,500 during the Onam week. There is also the possibility of getting Tatkal tickets since the waiting list position on most of the trains is below 15.

No ticket available from Thiruvananthapuram to Malabar
No train tickets are available on August 25 and 26 to the Malabar region from Thiruvananthapuram due to the festive rush. The Railways is yet to announce even a single daytime special train in the Thiruvananthapuram-Mangalore sector. The sleeper class waiting list position in Maveli Express on August 25 and 26 is 188 and 166; that in Thiruvananthapuram-Mangaluru Express is 187 and 170, respectively; and in Malabar Express 156 and 143. There is no confirmed ticket available for the return journey after Onam.

Many will benefit if authorities run an unreserved special train on the Thiruvananthapuram-Kannur route. If a train with general class coaches is operated on daytime Friday, the heavy rush being experienced in trains, including Parasuram and Eranad, can be addressed to an extent.

The sleeper waiting class position is over 100 in Maveli and Malabar Expresses on August 30 and 31. Even though Kottayam railway station now has five platforms after the completion of track doubling works, not even a single special train has been announced to the town.

Why can’t you book tickets in advance, asks Union Minister
The Centre has made it clear that it can’t interfere in the issue of airlines charging exorbitant ticket rates during Onam. Union Civil Aviation Minister, in his letter to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan, said the ministry will actively consider if the state demands chartered flight services. The union minister was replying to the letter seeking the intervention of the Centre to rein in rising ticket prices. He rejected the state’s argument that the airfare hike during Onam is excessive. Instead, he pointed out that the hike is only 9.77% higher than the average rate and also advised that people should plan their journeys well in advance.

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