Srinagar- Even as the major roads and highways connecting Kashmir Valley with the rest of the world remain open, the soaring airfares between Srinagar and New Delhi have significantly surged in recent days causing concern among tourism players as well as the locals here.
Traveling one-way from New Delhi to Srinagar now costs around Rs 15,000.
Commuters have expressed their grievances about airlines raising their ticket prices for journeys to the Valley, even though the Srinagar-Jammu national highway is through for vehicular movement.
For instance, on November 2, Indigo, a major private player in the aviation sector, is offering tickets from Srinagar to New Delhi for Rs 6255, while Vistara is selling it for Rs 11,765. Similarly, Air Asia has priced tickets at Rs 5785, and SpiceJet’s tickets are capped at a whopping Rs 19,416. The same fare applies to those traveling from New Delhi to Srinagar on this day.
Even as the weather in Kashmir remains pleasant and there is no forecast of major snowfall in Kashmir as of now, the airfares have started soaring gradually, leaving commuters high and dry.
The snowfall in winters often blocks Srinagar-Jammu highway and Mughal road— the two crucial surface links connecting Kashmir with the rest of the country. Every year, the closure of highways leads to an unprecedented spike in air ticket prices.
“We have to face this issue every year. I wonder why isn’t the government taking concrete steps to fix the rates of air tickets once for all,” said Nazir Ahmad, a resident of Dalgate.
Ahmad said they usually witness a hike in airfares during the winters when there is snowfall.
“But this time, even though winter is yet to arrive, the rates have started soaring sky high,” he added.
The uncapped airfare rates applied by different airlines operating in Kashmir have also left students and patients fuming. The exorbitant rates have also impacted tourism players as guests have canceled their bookings.
“A group of tourists was scheduled to travel to Kashmir from November 15th to November 24th. They had booked over three rooms in our hotel, but they canceled it after the air ticket rates were hiked,” said Jan Mohammad, a hotelier from tourist hotspot Boulevard here.
Manzoor Ahmad Pakthoon, chairman of the Kashmir Houseboat Owners’ Association, told Kashmir Observer that they have raised the issue of unilateral hike in air tickets with the higher authorities but no action has been taken so far.
“This has become a routine now. We are tired of raising this issue with the administration. I think it needs to be addressed by the Central government,” Pakthoon said.
He quickly added that though there’s no rush of tourists to the Valley, the tourism players were expecting huge flow once the Valley receives snowfall.
“One can only imagine the airfares when Srinagar-Jammu national highway shuts due to landslides or shooting stones caused by snowfall,” he added.
An official from the Tourism department told Kashmir Observer that capping air tickets was the domain of the Civil Aviation Ministry, not the Union Territory administration.
Notably, in March of this year, a parliamentary panel urged the civil aviation ministry to establish price limits for airfares, preventing airlines from using predatory pricing strategies under the guise of a free-market economy.
The panel emphasized the need to strike a balance between the commercial interests of private airlines and the welfare of passengers. They highlighted the importance of enabling the growth of private airlines while ensuring passengers are not exploited in the name of commercialization.
However, the government made it clear that they aren’t in favor of interfering in a free-market economy by putting caps on airfares.
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