The Indian ‘Fly’ Club Airlines Versus Railways

The Railways for long have been the favourite mode of transport among Indians, only to be recently outclassed by ‘affordable’ airlines. In accordance to a recent report published by the Indian Railways, the blueprint for 2019-2020 predicts that the railway sector might lose out on its high-end patrons to domestic airlines. The blueprint also states that falling prices of domestic air travel indicates that by 2020 the airlines in the domestic sector will overcome the railways.

The stifling factor for airlines when it came to passengers has always been the price; but with the centre’s Regional Connectivity Scheme, that has been addressed leaving domestic flyers happy. Just earlier this month, Civil Aviation Minister Jayant Sinha stated that the demand in aviation sector in India is driven by “affordability”. Sinha asserted that the cost of long-distance air travel in the country is INR 5 per kilometre which is equivalent to auto-rickshaw fares.

The blueprint states, “It is essential that Indian Railways addresses the two key value propositions of airlines passenger business — price and speed — immediately to sustain its core business in the passenger segment in the future.”

The blueprint made utilisation of government statistics to come to the deduction that 25 pc of domestic air travel happens over inter-city distances within 500 km , contrary to the popular perception that air travel is chosen only for 800-1,000-km distances.

The blueprint which is like a red alert for the railways is part of an internal assessment report commissioned by Railway Minister Suresh Prabhu and prepared by the Railway Board to map a comprehensive overhaul and possible course correction.

“With the proliferation of airports into small towns and massive thrust of low-cost airlines to Tier-II and III cities, there is a clear pattern emerging of air being preferred for even shorter hauls by passengers,” states the blueprint.

The civil aviation sector in the domestic front has witnessed a surge in the number of passengers towards the 100-million mark in the recent years.

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