Airfares for flights from Srinagar this weekend have shot up to abnormally high levels after the Jammu and Kashmir state government issued an advisory urging pilgrims to curtail their Amarnath Yatra and return as soon as possible.
For a one-way direct flight from Srinagar to Delhi, even low-cost airlines such as IndiGo, SpiceJet, GoAir and AirAsia are charging between Rs 10,000 to Rs 22,000, according to travel portals. The normal rates generally hover around Rs 3,000.
Similarly, from Srinagar to Jammu, the current flight rates are around Rs 16,000. Other places like Amritsar, Chandigarh, Jaipur also witnessed a jump in airfares ranging between Rs 10,000 to Rs 19,000.
Web portals of several airlines with flights from Srinagar on Saturday and Sunday showed that all virtually all seats have been sold with just a few remaining.
"Everyone is tense and in a panic mode. We had to pay Rs 12,000 per person for flying to Delhi from Srinagar," said a passenger Riya Khandelwal.
Khandelwal had to cut short her Amarnath Yatra following an advisory issued by the state government.
Aniket, another passenger, said: "We completed the Amarnath Yatra. The moment we touched down at Pahalgam at around 4:30 to 5 pm, we were told by officials from Amarnath Shrine Board and CRPF to leave Kashmir as early as possible."
"We then tried to book a cab. There is a rule there that they do not allow cabs to leave to Srinagar after 2 pm due to security reasons. There was a lot of confusion. There was no one to guide us. Fortunately, we got a cab for Srinagar and we reached there after three to four hours," he said.
Stressing that the atmosphere is not good, Aniket further said: "We then booked a morning flight (to Delhi) and reached here finally. Prices are extremely high. My friends and relatives were tensed and kept on calling us."
Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Friday asked Indian airlines to be prepared to operate extra flights to and from Srinagar to fly out Amarnath Yatris and tourists from the Valley.
Soon after DGCA's directions, airlines made announcements to give a full fee waiver on rescheduling/cancellation for all its flights to/from Srinagar.
Yesterday, a joint press conference was addressed by the Army and police forces in which details of the weapons and ammunition recovered in the Amarnath Yatra route was given.
They also said that terrorists from Pakistan were planning to launch an attack on Amarnath Yatra, after receiving credible inputs.
The state government had then issued an advisory asking Yatris and tourists to return as soon as possible. "Unnecessary panic is being created by linking this to all kinds of other issues. A pure security measure is being mixed up with issues with which it has no connection. That is the cause of the panic," a notice from the Home Secretary and the Divisional Commissioner had said.