Tired of giving up on Indian Railways after getting waitlisted repeatedly? Well, read this on.
A year after most private domestic airlines tied-up with the Indian Railways and Catering Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) to upgrade non-confirmed, waitlisted train passengers to flights, state-run Air India on Wednesday announced a similar tie-up.
Ashwani Lohani, chairman and managing director, Air India, told reporters in New Delhi on Wednesday that -
Rajdhani Express passengers who do not have a confirmed ticket can avail an Air India flight within 24 hours of the departure of the train.
According to the contours of the plan explained by Lohani, an Indian Railway Services of Mechanical Engineers officer, passengers who have an air-conditioned (AC) first class non-confirmed ticket on Rajdhani Express would not have to pay anything and can board any of the Air India flight to their destination of travel, subject to availability of seat.
Interestingly, this comes at a time when the national carrier has been trying to stave off competition from the low-cost airlines.
“(A window on) the IRCTC (website) will automatically pop-up and give an option to passengers. Or through an SMS (short messaging service) where they would be intimated and be given an option to travel on Air India to their point of destination of travel,” Lohani said.
The option would be available only for those destinations where Air India flies. In the future, this would be applicable for other premium trains as well.
Those passengers having a non-confirmed AC-2 tier ticket of Rajdhani Express would have to pay an additional Rs. 1,500 over what they would have paid for the train ticket. Similarly, AC-3 tier Rajdhani Express passengers will have to pay a little more than Rs. 1,500, Lohani added.
IRCTC is a subsidiary of the Indian Railways which handles online ticketing operations, catering and tourism services for the people’s carrier.
IRCTC in return would get the commission amount travel agencies get from airlines, said an Air India official requesting anonymity.
In an interview to InfraCircle last week, railway minister Suresh Prabhu said, “For the high-end travellers, air has become a better option because low-cost airlines have come in. So if we don’t awaken to the challenge, we are going to lose as the candle will burn from both ends. Both kinds of passengers, low-end and high-end will go.”
The airline hopes this move could generate significant passenger volumes for the carrier.
“We expect to further improve our load factor which is currently 78%. On average, we can always accommodate 22 more passengers on our flight and I hope this initiative will give it a push,” said Lohani.
Experts termed the scheme prudent.
Former executive director of Air India, Jitender Bhargava, said that despite Air India being a national carrier, it will have to explore all available options to remain competitive and to enhance revenue, like any other carrier.
“Considering that one out of four seats in Air India remains vacant, it will be prudent for it to get more passengers to stay afloat,” said Bhargava who has also authored the book The Descent of Air India.
In March, news agency Press Trust of India reported that the airline is expected to post an operating profit of Rs8 crore in 2015-16 quoting minister of state for civil aviation Mahesh Sharma.