Not long ago, the low cost carriers were offering the air tickets in the price range of Rs 3000-Rs 5000 for most of the segments of domestic travel in India. Now the same sectors have price range of Rs 8000- Rs 11000. Similar is the case with the international sector where these used to offer cheap air tickets but are now charging almost the same rates as the full service carriers. The LCCs have their reasons to give as justifications for charging these rates and these are understandable as well but the material difference of prices of air tickets which acted as a key distinguishing element has been lost.
Be it the fuel price hike, high government taxes, reduced competition due to some airlines being in big financial trouble and a number of other reasons, the reasons have been ample to justify the increasing prices of the cheap air tickets on the LCCs. The USP of cheap domestic and cheap international flights which were once the hallmark has been diluted. The focus of new USPs now is being oriented towards the elements of punctuality and service which have otherwise been secondary, yet important, parameters of brand development within their niche segments.
Customers, at present, do not have much choice since the airlines which are providing the cheap air tickets, are doing so more under distress and there is no guarantee of their on-time performance. Price rise is increasingly being looked upon as opportunism, though the airlines would prefer to call it pragmatic. What is being conveniently ignored is the serious erosion of trust and loyalty of customers as well as incalculable harm it is doing to the brand image of the LCCs. So, have the Indian LCCs lost their way?