April 18, 2021

What To Expect When India Drops Domestic Fare Bands

Aircrafts queue up on the tarmac due to monsoon showers delays before takaing off at Mumbai airport on June 7, 2018. (Photo by PUNIT PARANJPE / AFP) (Photo credit should read PUNIT PARANJPE/AFP via Getty Images)

One interesting aspect of India’s recovering domestic market has been the presence of fare bands. The bands set a price floor and ceiling on all routes depending on distance in an attempt to prevent high prices or a price war. But what will happen once India drops the domestic fare bands?

What To Expect When India Drops Domestic Fare Bands
India plans to remove capacity and Domestic fare restrictions from the aviation industry once traffic reaches pre-pandemic levels. Photo: Getty Images

Going soon

In a statement to Parliament, seen in the Hindustan Times, Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri made the future of fare caps clear. He clarified that the government will remove the caps once traffic recovers and has no plans to continue regulating ticket prices. So what will the post-fare caps future look like?

The most likely change will be airlines resuming their huge discounts on tickets. This will result in all airlines dropping their fares in a bid to attract passengers and edge each other out. Depending on demand, discounted tickets are a great way to increase load factors and kickstart domestic travel again.

Expect huge discounts on tickets to make a return once fare caps are lifted. Photo: Getty Images

The second change will be rising prices on certain routes. This means last-minute tickets on packed flights and routes with low competition will see prices slowly bounce back to pre-pandemic levels. However, considering lower demand right now, it’s likely that the price rise will take longer (barring monopoly routes).

New domestic fare classes

While ultra-cheap hand-baggage only fares have become popular across the globe, Indian airlines have faced restrictions. Until now, carriers could only charge ₹200 ($3) less for a handbag-only fare compared to a checked-in baggage fare. This meant passengers were willing to pay for the slightly higher fare class due to the marginal price difference

However, the DGCA has announced that it will be doing away with this cap, according to The Times Of India. This means airlines will be able to sell much cheaper cabin bag-only tickets and lower fare prices. The widening gap will also mean that passengers will be more willing to select the cheaper option in the future.

India is allowing domestic airlines to sell cheaper hand baggage-only fares once price caps are removed, boosting low-cost travel. Photo: Getty Images

While DGCA has told airlines to clearly highlight the prices of checked-in bags and keep fares “reasonable,” we can expect a new fare class to be established. However, the new rule will only go into effect once the government lifts the previous fare caps.

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Threatened recovery

We’ve discussed India’s aviation recovery several times, and how the industry has made a swift recovery despite rising and falling cases. However, as concerns of a second wave mount, there is a worry that airlines will see passenger numbers drop substantially once again, hurting the hard-fought recovery.

While rising cases have not hurt India’s aviation recovery previously, a second wave could do so. Photo: Getty Images

The threat of a second wave could prevent the government from increasing airline capacity from 80% to 100% and allowing a full recovery to take shape. For now, it’s likely that both capacity and fare caps remain in place for the next few months.
mestic Fare Bands

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