Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC), the subsidiary of the Indian Railways that handles the catering, tourism and online ticketing operations, has tied up with airlines to allow train travellers with wait-listed tickets to book flight tickets by paying an incremental fee. In addition, IRCTC would also get the commission amount travel agencies get from airlines
The passengers, in this case, whose train journey is not confirmed, will also pay less for the air tickets than the prevailing spot prices for such air tickets. However, this facility is only available on train routes that are also served by airlines.
This move, if successful, could generate significant passenger volumes for carriers. At present, airlines — which often see seasonal fluctuation in demand — are often forced to sell seats at a lower price to fill its aircraft.
IRCTC officials told FE that the portal has already tied up with the Wadia Group-owned GoAir, while it is in advance stages of discussions with another no-frill carrier SpiceJet that is expected to be finalised by July.
Passengers carrying wait-listed train tickets can book flight tickets three days prior to their travel date, after canceling their train tickets. However, they can travel (via air) only on the day of their original train journey or one day after it.
While IRCTC will get a commission for each such flight bookings, passengers can expect cheaper tickets than ones booked through airline sites, travel agents or online travel portals.
“IRCTC will provide cheaper tickets than the prevailing spot rates. For instance, if a Delhi-Mumbai one-way ticket costs Rs 6,000-7,000, passengers with wait-listed tickets will have to pay a lower fare of about Rs 4500-5,000,” said IRCTC’s public relations officer (PRO) Sandip Dutta.
IRCTC is currently in talks with all scheduled domestic carriers to partner them to expand this particular offering.
“While, state-owned Air India has declined to partner IRCTC on this venture, all other airlines, including full-service carriers, have shown a keen interest to enter such arrangement,” IRCTC’s Dutta added.
The latest move by IRCTC could not only help reduce the huge waiting lists for train tickets but also help fill the aircraft of commercial carriers, especially during off seasons.
However, unless IRCTC manages to tie up with more airlines, wait-listed passengers could find it difficult to upgrade to flight tickets, due to lack of supply, especially during busy seasons, said an analyst, who tracks aviation for a foreign brokerage.
“IRCTC will also have to offer flight tickets at a competitive rate, much below the prevailing spot fares. If they fail to do so, the price-conscious Indian travellers may not opt for a flight ticket and instead postpone their date of train travel,” the analyst added.