Mumbai: From a big-ticket brand, in a short span Kingfisher Airlines has nosedived to one with few takers. And now the snub seems to be coming from people who matter the most - travellers. If the city-based ticketing agencies are to be believed, commuters are saying no to Kingfisher tickets, despite their being offered at unbelievably low prices.
According to Devang Sanghvi of Andheri-based Venus Holidays, "We purchased Kingfisher e-coupons in bulk at Rs 5,500 each, but with the growing uncertainty over the future of the airline, we are selling them at about Rs 3,000. Unfortunately, there are still no buyers. Travellers are willing to pay more for booking on other carriers. When we even broach the subject of these low-cost tickets, they straightaway reject the deal."
"Our clients whom we booked on Kingfisher were inconvenienced recently as not only did the airline cancel flights, it also failed to accommodate commuters on other carriers. With increasing scepticism about the airline's operations, I have asked my office not to book any ticket of Kingfisher," Pradip Lulla of Cupid Travels said. Lulla too revealed that there are agencies that are struggling to sell Kingfisher coupons.
Ajay Prakash, president, Travel Agents Federation of India (TAFI), said, "It is the big wholesalers who buy coupons in advance and unfortunately it is not price but reliability which determines consumer preference and confidence. So, until Kingfisher assures its passengers that its flights will operate on schedule, price remains inconsequential." Prakash is also the chief executive of Andheri-based Nomad Travels. The airline recently reached out to trader groups seeking their cooperation in this bad phase.
Loss of faith
Praveen Sharma (33), a Lokhandwala-based business consultant said that booking Kingfisher is a risky deal. "Till six months back I was an avid supporter of Kingfisher Airlines. Best service with zero passenger inconvenience was their priority. But now they seem to have completely forgotten what they were. In the last three months I have had two experiences and on both occasions my family members who were booked on the carrier came to know about the cancellation at the last minute. Even the customer care department, that used to be the best in the industry, failed to respond in time. The airline neglected to accommodate my family on other carriers. After what I am reading every day about Kingfisher, I cannot afford to book tickets on this carrier. The airline, unsure about its operations and employees, cannot assure us that it will operate on time."
Thirty-year-old Ashutosh Mishra, a senior business manager with an Andheri-based company, said, "I have travelled a lot via Kingfisher. It is sad to see the airline's comedown every day. In the past six months, they have cut the fleet size by one-fourth, they have cancelled a large number of flights leaving passengers in limbo. Being a salaried person I will never opt to travel with this airline till the situation improves."
When contacted, a Kingfisher spokesperson said, "We would like to reiterate that the 70%-plus load factors on key trunk routes of Kingfisher Airlines indicate the confidence of guests in the airline."
Much has changed in 6 months
Six months ago the carrier had the second-highest market share and operated a king-size fleet of more than 60 aircraft, a number that has now come down to 16. After getting de-recognised by the International Air Transport Association (IATA), the airline does not have any international booking platform and so it recently decided to terminate overseas operations for an indefinite period. In India too the situation is not good as a majority of ticket-booking agencies are reluctant to do business with it due to growing uncertainty over the future of the airline.
According to reliable sources within the beleaguered carrier, the Goa office of Kingfisher was shut down on Sunday. The airline plans to down shutters on more than half a dozen offices in different cities and is likely to come out with a detailed list today.
40: The number of KF's bank accounts the Service Tax dept has frozen since October 2011
Rs 444 cr: The airline's losses in the quarter ending December 31, 2011
130: Number of Kingfisher flights operating daily, down from 400 in the winter schedule