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Low Cost Airlines and Cheap Fare - Are Indian Budget Travelers Really Satisfied?

Aug 17, 2007
Things have changed dramatically in air travel in the last few years as far as India is concerned. Once upon a time flying was possible only for privileged few but that scenario is now a thing of the past.

Air Deccan has spearheaded the transformation of converting air travel into an affordable option for the huge middle class of our country. Air Deccan started its service in August 2003 and just in 4 years there and today there are at least another half a dozen low cost carriers crisscrossing the Indian skies. The notable of them are Spice Jet, Go Air and Indigo.

The low cost carriers has not only become a boon for the middle class but it has also helped air passengers across the board as full service airlines have been compelled to reorganize their pricing structure and stay attractive for passengers who are constantly looking for better deals. So therefore the market is flooded with lots of offers from leading full service carriers like Jet Airways, Air Sahara, Kingfisher and Indian. They range from credit card cash back to free hotel room to fly your spouse free and what not.

Despite the rise of aviation fuel over the years the average ticket price has gone down. The full service airlines are also offering early bird discounts to optimize capacity utilization. Many a times if you book early at least a month in advance you may get cheaper price in Jet Airways than that of Air Deccan.

So far so good for consumers but will the party last? The answer lies how far the low cost airlines can position themselves as dependable for the purpose of travel. Air Deccan has publicly proclaimed several times that their competition is with the railways and not other airlines which is definitely very tempting to the budget travelers.

But the general experience with the leading low cost carrier is not always so positive. There are numerous reviews and blogs written by passengers in product review websites which tells horrible experiences of people who took a flight with this airline and this kind of feedback is not only Air Deccan specific but also abundant for other low cost carriers. The consumers are not complaining for the catering or the lack of attractive female cabin crew but for basic facilities and requirements that they expect from an airline.

The most serious problem dogging the low cost airlines is their poor public image. They are not perceived as dependable because of the very high incidence of flight cancellations and delays.

Most of the time there is a chaos whether on ground or in the air. For example, as the seat number is done away with there is always a mad rush just like a local bus or train inside the cabin during boarding. It is tougher to allocate resources for betterment of service for the low cost carriers as the revenue is lower but the biggest blunder for the cause of revenue woe and resource crunch is the Re. 1 fare which was pioneered by Air Deccan.

Air Deccan announced the Re. 1 fare for some kind of marketing gimmick but unfortunately they are caught into the trap. Emulating Air Deccan other new low cost carriers are too offering these insanely low fares and no doubt consumers are lapping them up. But this has actually become a big headache for the budget airlines.

Instead of just cutting down the frills they went too far with the gimmick which is costing them dearly. In 2006 X'mas Air Deccan issued 2 lacs Rs. 2 tickets and they may be they have issued several lacs Re. 1 and Rs. 2 tickets till date. You need not be an aviation analyst but common sense suggests that even many large international airlines will go bust if they are to fly two hundred thousand passengers free of cost.

I feel that the low cost carriers need to rethink the strategy. First of all Indian consumers don't want a ticket for Re. 1 or Rs. 2, they want respect. In this price you cannot even get a pedal rickshaw ride anywhere in India so this does not go well with an air passenger's ego.

Instead of gimmick it is better to have a kind of uniform and realistic low pricing by cutting on frills and making the low cost carriers a differentiated service aimed at people with business sense who would like to pay a just amount for a point to point safe and comfortable transit. When this is done I think passengers will find better value to fly with low cost carriers and they will stay loyal too.

One thing one should not forget is that, even if the passengers are paying Re.1 they are not going to be kind when their flights are canceled and baggages delayed. I have witnessed chaos and angry exchanges between customers and staff several times at the counters of Air Deccan and other low cost carriers in various airports and simply these tell us the customer satisfaction level of these airlines.

So in the long term the free flights are not going to help the low cost carriers sustain in business, they have to deliver what other airlines deliver sans the frill.
About the Author
Jaydeep Bhattacharjee writes on consumer related issues facing the Indian consumers today. He is the founder of www.admanya.com which is India's leading C2C portal. Admanya is completely free and depends on user participation for its content. Join Admanya and be an empowered consumer - you can read or write a review about almost any product or service.
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