NEW DELHI — Domestic airfares in India saw a sharp spike this week after the country grounded its Boeing 737 Max aircraft fleet in the wake of a crash in Ethiopia on March 10 that killed all 157 people on board.
An analysis by the travel website Yatra.com showed an average fare hike of 65 percent on key routes compared with a year ago. The average hike recorded last month was just 30 percent.
Delhi-based aviation analyst Neelam Mathews said there was a “direct correlation” between the fare spike and grounded jets, as “less capacity meant fewer seats in the air.”
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation in India announced Tuesday that the country would ground its Max planes and bar planes from entering or transiting its airspace. SpiceJet, a leading airline, had to cancel about 35 flights after grounding its 12 Max jets. The airline was expecting delivery of over 100 more such planes.
Fares will probably “stay high for the next three months,” said Kapil Kaul, chief executive of the Center for Aviation in South Asia. He said the demand was expected to be “robust” with elections due in April and May.
Despite being one of the fastest-growing aviation markets in the world, with a 21 percent growth in air traffic last year, Indian carriers have faced challenges this year.
In February, the Mumbai airport announced closure of its runway three times a week until the end of March for maintenance work. The airline IndiGo, which has the lion’s share of the domestic market, has been grappling with a pilot crunch and has reduced the number of daily flights it operates.
Facing a financial crisis, Jet Airways has been forced to ground almost 20 percent of its fleet.
Kaul said the situation will affect airline finances as well, depending on how long the Max aircraft remains grounded.