It is widely believed that the Indian railways is struggling to retain its customer base, which it is losing to various airlines. However, if the numbers are to be believed, the rail route is still the most favoured mode of transport for weekend travellers.
According to industry estimates, approximately 1.5 million Indians will be taking flights over the coming weekend starting from August 12, while the number of people travelling in non-suburban trains alone will come to around 44 million. Last year, during the same time, the railways carried 42 million passengers, while airlines carried only 1.2 million.
"While about 1.5 million Indians will be travelling via flights over the four-day-long weekend, people travelling in non-suburban trains (intercity) will be around 44 million. That's roughly about 29 times more travellers in trains versus flights," said Aloke Bajpai, chief executive officer and co-founder of Ixigo, an online travel platform. According to Ixigo data, the top-most holiday destinations for train travellers are Goa, Jammu, Tirupati, and Amritsar, while flight travellers prefer Goa, Leh, Kochi, and Udaipur.
According to Paytm, weekday versus weekend travel patterns of Indians reveal that people between 25-35 years of age were 26 per cent more likely to travel on weekends, while people below 40 years were 17 per cent more likely to travel on long weekends. There was hardly any deviation in weekend versus weekday travel patterns of senior citizens, implying that long weekends don't excite them too much.
Among youngsters, however, attractive pricing has given airlines an edge over the railways. "Train bookings are almost twice the number of flight bookings during the long weekends this month. Most young professionals (age 23-28) had a 60 per cent inclination towards flight travel, indicating that this age group is averse to weekend travels, assuming that professionals can't stay on a vacation for more than four days," said Paytm Vice-President Abhishek Rajan.
Rajan added that the current ticket size for weekend travel via flights is Rs 4,200 and it is expected to go up as more people are trying to book their tickets at the last minute. Meanwhile, for trains, the average ticket size is Rs 700 and it is expected to surge with Tatkal reservations. About 65 per cent of train tickets booked are for the sleeper class, 24 per cent are for AC three-tier, and about 11 per cent are for the rest of the AC classes.
"With attractive holiday discounts offered by airlines, many people prefer to travel by flights than trains. Also, with recent hygiene concerns about food and linen provided on trains, the demand for flights is on the rise," said Trip Tap Toe Founder Manuraj Singh Johar. For major routes, airlines had started getting an advantage over trains in terms of prices, especially when compared to the ticket cost for classes like AC two-tier. For the Delhi to Mumbai journey on August 13, a flight will charge Rs 3,684 per person compared to Rs 4,123 on AC two-tier and Rs 2,772 on Rajdhani.
In the month of June, the railways carried 706.19 million passengers compared to 697.69 million during the same time in 2016, clocking a 1.22 per cent growth. The number of passengers carried by domestic airlines between January and June 2017 was 56.155 million, up 18.03 per cent when compared to the 47.579 million passengers they carried during the corresponding period in the previous year.