18 Jun 2008, V Ayyappan,TNN
CHENNAI: With travellers hesitating to fly to the new Bangalore airport because it is a two-hour drive from the city’s centre, airlines have started to combine some of their services on the Chennai-Bangalore route.
Airlines that are already reeling under the impact of high cost of jet fuel are struggling to cope with low load factor on the once lucrative sector. Deccan, Kingfisher, Paramount Airways and Jet Airways are struggling to get seats filled in the sector. Since not many bookings are being made flights scheduled during non-peak hours, airlines have started to combine flights scheduled at short intervals to minimise losses.
Airport sources said that there was a startling 60 percent dip in passenger bookings per flight after the new airport was opened at Bangalore. Only the first flight of the day, like the 6.20 a.m service operated by Deccan gets fully-booked. Other services scheduled later in the day suffer from low load factor.
“The airlines are not getting as many bookings as they used to get when the old airport was functioning at Bangalore. The load factor has started to dip even in the morning, the peak hour,” said a senior official of Airports Authority of India (AAI).
Indian has stopped its services to Bangalore while other airlines are thinking of re-scheduling their frequencies to prevent aircraft flying empty. However, airlines are yet to make a formal announcement and are managing the show by clubbing some of the services when loads go abysmally low, as in the last couple of weeks. Kingfisher Airlines, which has recently increased services to Bangalore, is monitoring the situation before deciding whether they will have to go for a re-scheduling.
Airport Director Dinesh Kumar said “We are yet to get requests for re-scheduling of services in Chennai-Bangalore sector.”
A senior official of a private airline confirmed that there was a dip in passengers which together with high fuel costs had increased the cost of operations tremendously.
“The number of passengers flying is decreasing drastically. This is largely because of the distance from Devanahalli to Bangalore city and also because of the high fare fixed by the airlines,” said Travel Agents Federation of India secretary Talha Rahman. Hence, travellers who once used to fly have started to drive down. Only those whose tickets are booked by the office continue to fly. J Sethuraman, who flies every time he travels to Bangalore decided to drive down this time. “I had booked a 5 pm flight to Bangalore from Chennai yesterday. But, my clients in Bangalore warned me not to fly. They told me to take the car, as driving down will be more cheaper and faster. So, I started at 3 pm in my car and reached Bangalore at 8.30 pm.”