Online travel agents (OTAs) saw massive demand a day after airlines opened bookings, even though only a few flights are set to resume from Monday, with several restrictions.
Bookings began on airlines’ web platforms and OTAs on Thursday night, and among the most searched and booked was the New Delhi-Patna route.
According to both MakeMyTrip and ixigo, New Delhi to Patna flights were the most booked and second-most searched, respectively. Other popular routes were Pune-New Delhi, Mumbai-Patna, New Delhi-Ranchi, Bengaluru-Patna, and New Delhi-Kolkata, said Rajesh Magow, co-founder and group CEO of MakeMyTrip.
ixigo said the top searched routes were Mumbai-Kolkata, Bengaluru-New Delhi, Hyderabad-Varanasi, Chennai-Lucknow, Kolkata-Guwahati, and Kochi-Bengaluru.
Both aggregators said they witnessed a 10x increase in searches and bookings on Thursday, compared to the day before.“We have received an overwhelming response for nearly all metro routes, on account of pent-up demand. Bookings are trending at almost 40 per cent of pre-Covid levels. With the government capping air fares, we anticipate bookings to increase,” said Dhruv Shringi, co-founder and CEO of Yatra.com.
Bookings have been allowed with several restrictions and new operating procedures, including customers having to print their own boarding passes, web check-in being mandatory, checking in limited baggage online, and scanning own boarding passes at gates.
Thomas Cook said it was receiving queries for corporate travel, too. “Sectors in demand (one way/return) include Delhi-Mumbai/Bengaluru, Mumbai-Chennai/Bengaluru/ Kolkata/ Hyderabad as well as Chandigarh, Vijayawada,” said Indiver Rastogi, president and group head (global business travel) of Thomas Cook (India) . Employee safety is a key concern across corporates and bookings being received cover unavoidable or essential travel, for example those working at factories, plants, audits and finance related, and IT projects, he added.
Even bookings increased, customer complaints had already started pouring in on social media by late Thursday. Magow said there were teething issues given the opening up of flight bookings with entirely new requirements, but said he expected them to smoothen out.
MakeMyTrip and others in the travel and hospitality industry have taken a “safety pledge” to maintain high hygiene standards, and follow new protocols.
To reduce travel anxiety, AI-based ixigo has announced the launch of ‘ixigo assured’ fares — allowing full refund guarantee up to Rs 5,000 for cancellations made by travellers, for any reason whatsoever, prior to their date of departure. This option will be available for all new bookings made on or after May 22