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Air travel has become an expensive luxury  Aug 17, 2008

Rising airfares due to expensive fuel has a direct impact on the Indian middle class, many of whom are now switching back from flying to other modes of transport.

High oil prices have put a brake on not just profits but also on consumer's lifestyle and business opportunities.

Rahul Rajpal and Shweta Talwar's family had just three years ago switched from traveling by train to taking a flight for both business and pleasure.

The cheap fares offered by low-cost carriers lured thousands of first-time fliers, like the Rajpals on planes.

But as rising fuel prices have pushed up costs of air travel flying is no longer a feasible option for 24-year-old Rahul Rajpal.

Shweta who works for a corporate said her company has severely limited air travel for employees to cut costs leading to longer journeys and less productive meetings.

Shweta said, "Ever since this increase in fuel prices we've been asked by our company to use the trains more often. It's impossible for me to travel by a train to Bombay from Delhi and my work has been severely impacted."

This is not good news for India's aviation industry, which was hoping for a massive expansion on the back of an economic boom.

The story began earlier this year when government-run oil companies hiked the prices of aviation fuel by a whopping 18.5 per cent.

The hike pushed fuel costs in Delhi to Rs 69,227 per kilolitre from Rs 58,387.92 and to Rs 76,625.68 per kilolitre in Mumbai from Rs 64,824.

Airlines then responded by increasing their fuel surcharge, making air travel more expensive.

This has resulted in what is being called the 'return of the railways'.

There is no doubt that the crisis in the aviation sector is having a snowball effect on consumers.

At the New Delhi Railway Station, many frequent fliers are now going the old school way and hopping on a train rather than a jet.

Mohammed Ali, a businessman said, "Unless its not very important, I'll travel by railways."

Sagar, a software professional said, "I am going to Punjab right now, I couldn't have taken a flight to Amritsar because earlier it cost something like Rs 1500 bucks but now it is like Rs 3000. So I'm taking the train right now to save money."

Sindoor, a homemaker said, "Earlier we didn't care if we didn't get railway tickets but now we really try hard as air travel has become so expensive. Only if its very urgent then we travel by air."

Inflation soaring into double digits has hit the aviation industry the most and with more passengers like the Rajpals preferring trains the industry needs to revamp it's strategies to stay afloat.

Air travel has become an expensive luxury

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