Soaring Skies, Sinking Spirits: Kashmir Airfares Take Off, Tourists and Locals Land Hard

Soaring Skies, Sinking Spirits: Kashmir Airfares Take Off, Tourists and Locals Land Hard

Flight of Fancy or Financial Folly? Kashmir Airfares Leave Travelers Rethinking Plans

Air travel to Kashmir has become a luxury, with skyrocketing airfares surpassing even the costs of international flights. The prohibitively high ticket prices are not only deterring tourists but also burning a hole in the pockets of locals who need to travel from Srinagar to other parts of the country.

Despite an increase in the number of daily flights to Srinagar airport, which now exceeds 100, the steep rise in fares is acting as a significant deterrent for potential visitors. The average airfare from Delhi to Srinagar, the winter capital, has skyrocketed from Rs 4,000-5,000 to a staggering Rs 8000-12,000. Fares to other cities across India have also witnessed a sharp spike.

For residents of Srinagar who need to travel outside Kashmir or return to Srinagar for work, education, or medical reasons, the soaring air travel costs have compounded their difficulties.

Mushtaq Chaya, Chairman, Jammu and Kashmir Hoteliers Club, expressed outrage over the exorbitant airfare hike, stating, “The government must take strict action against those responsible for this arbitrary pricing. A mechanism to cap airfares is crucial to prevent hardship for all.”

Muhammad Ibrahim Siah, President TASK, echoed similar sentiments, lamenting, “Air tickets to Kashmir are now costlier than flights to Gulf countries. We promote tourism year-round, but these airfares make our place more expensive than foreign destinations. The government must intervene to control pricing.”

Notably, a House Standing Committee highlighted its concern over the high airfares imposed by some airline operators in the domestic sector, as well as the tactics employed in costing, which it deemed misleading to the public and forcing consumers to pay more. The committee recommended that the Ministry of Civil Aviation formulate appropriate guidelines regarding the rationalization of fares and publishing correct information on airline websites.

The report also pointed out instances of ‘Predatory Pricing’ in the domestic airline sector, where a particular airline may sell tickets at such low levels that competitors cannot compete and are forced to exit the market, eventually allowing the airline to raise prices again.

The Committee expressed concern over the fact that private airlines are charging different fares for the same sector, route, and direction of flights, specifically for the northeastern region and hilly areas, including Jammu and Kashmir and Ladakh, where domestic sector ticket prices are sometimes even higher than international airline sector prices.

As the aviation regulator, the DGCA’s intervention to check airfares was questioned, with the Committee noting that after the repeal of the Air Corporations Act of 1953, airfares are market-driven and not regulated by the government, except for a fixed period during the Covid-19 pandemic.

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