Travelling by train during festive season — Durga Puja or Diwali — works out to be cheaper than air on most of the routes, except for Delhi-Mumbai and Delhi-Chennai, if one booked tickets on September 19. This is after including the surge fare incorporated by the railways.
However, if one were to travel during off-peak season then on most routes the difference between air and rail fare narrows substantially.
For instance, in the first scenario, a seat on Rajdhani from Delhi to Patna by 2AC on October 28, two days before Diwali, costs Rs 2,370. On the same route if one booked an air ticket on September 19, the lowest available ticket will be for Rs 5,316 on Indigo. Similarly, taking the Rajdhani from Delhi to Kolkota by 2AC will cost Rs 2,915 compared to Rs 3,711 on Vistara.
However, in the second scenario during off-peak season, the gap narrows.
If one books ticket on September 19 for travelling on September 30, the rail fare cost from Delhi to Patna on 2AC will be Rs 2,495 while the lowest air ticket will come for Rs 3,045 — a difference of merely Rs 550 against a difference of Rs 2,950 in the first case. Similar is the case of Delhi-Kolkata where rail ticket will come for Rs 2,915 and air for Rs 3,030 — a difference of Rs 115 against a difference of Rs 796 in the first case.
The trend suggests that since during peak seasons airlines increase tariffs since demand is high, rail travel works cheaper despite the surge price mechanism introduced recently. However, if one has to travel during off-peak season, an air ticket on most routes will work out to be only marginally higher and could be lower on some routes during some period.
However, for travellers planning to travel anytime during the end of the current month, the best option could be Air India. The airline had introduced spot fares in June which is valid for travel till end September wherein for bookings made four hours before departure would cost lower than Rajdhani 2AC fare.
For instance, a seat on Air India on September 23, from Delhi – Mumbai would cost Rs 2,870 which is substantially lower than Rs 3,615 one would pay for a 2AC ticket on a Rajdhani. Moreover a Delhi – Ranchi, Delhi – Chennai and Delhi – Bangalore ticket on Air India would turn out be Rs 450, R330 and Rs 345 cheaper as compared to 2AC Rajdhani fares for the above mentioned date.
It is not clear whether Air India will extend the spot fare beyond September. Analysts doubt it will extend because the onset of peak season in October, which lasts till December will see high demand.