India is largely an inexpensive travel destination. The large cities and metros are well connected by airways.
Taking a flight is certainly one of the most convenient and comfortable ways to travel within India. Jet Airways and Air India are the main and long standing airlines. Other budget airlines include Indigo, Spicejet and Go Air.
How much does flying in India cost?
Planning in advance is key. If you book atleast 4 to 5 months or more before your travel dates, you can get flights for as low as USD 44 (EUR 32).
However costs increase with increasing duration and distance of travel and tickets for flights along highly frequented routes such as Delhi-Mumbai are more expensive. If you are flying to a tourist hub during the peak season for that destination, you are likely to encounter very high fares. So the helpful thumb rule is to remember that tickets are much cheaper the more in advance you book them.
Most of the time you can find great deals on domestic flight tickets on online booking portals such as www.makemytrip.com, www.cleartrip.com, www.yatra.com, etc. You can also book tickets over the phone or through an agent apart from making a booking at the airport itself. Travel agents usually know where to get the best deals in terms of routes and fares. That’s why it’s usually advisable to go through a reliable agent.
Can I fly to each city on my itinerary?
The airline connectivity in India is not as good as the railway connectivity and you fill find that not all towns of tourist interest are connected by direct flights.
For eg, if you are touring the famous Golden triangle (i.e Delhi, Agra, Jaipur) you cannot fly between these cities. The best alternative here is to fly into Delhi then rent a car (with a driver) or take a train to Agra and the same from Agra to Jaipur. Jaipur has an airport and regular flights to Delhi. So if your trip ends in Jaipur, you can fly back to Delhi. But if you are travelling within Rajasthan, say Pushkar or Jodhpur or even Udaipur (which does have an airport), a train or car is the only alternative.
Similarly in the South too, you can fly into Cochin or Trivandrum but for travel within Kerala, you cannot.
Spicejet and Air India have recently introduced daily flights between Delhi and Dharamsala. So the 12 hour train journey from Delhi to Pathankot plus 3 hour drive from Pathankot to Dharamsala is now shortened to a 1 hour flight. However, the overnight train is still a very economic alternative and the 3 hour drive is an extremely scenic ride into Dharamsala.
You can now fly direct from Varanasi to Agra. Air India is the only airline, however they do not fly daily. Check for the days they fly when planning your itinerary.
How early need I be at the airport and what is my luggage allowance?
Effective April 2014, the check-in counters for domestic flights close 45 minutes prior to the time of departure on your ticket. It is advisable to reach atleast 75-90 minutes before to ensure a hassle free check-in. Hand luggage is X-rayed and stamped before check-in and all cabin baggage must have a baggage tag as to get you through security check. There are specific security requirements for flights to politically/socially sensitive areas as Kashmir, Ladakh etc. They may disallow cabin luggage and confiscate batteries in electronics. Baggage identification on tarmac may be expected of you before loading. Photography is officially prohibited but they are not very strict about it.
You can also web check-in for your flight. Web check-in is allowed 24 hrs prior to departure. You need to log on to the airline website, pull out your reservation and follow the steps as directed. You can select your seats here and at the end, save a copy of the boarding pass and carry a printout along, or simply save a copy on your phone if the airline allows it. If you have already checked-in online, you can reach the airport 60 mins prior to your flight departure.
The allowance for check-in baggage is 15kg for economy class passengers and 30kg for those flying business class on standard domestic carriers.
For cabin baggage, as per regulations by the Government, currently only one piece of cabin baggage per adult/child passenger is permitted on board. The weight of the cabin baggage should not exceed 7 kgs. Passengers are permitted to carry one laptop over and above one piece of hand luggage as cabin baggage.
If your check-in baggage exceeds 15kgs, you are charged INR 250 per additional kg which is to be paid directly at the airport.
Can you help with information on cancellation and refunds?
The cancellation and refund process is now quite easy and hassle free. You can cancel online directly or via phone. It takes about 3 to 5 working days for the amount to get credited in your account.
The cancellation or date change charges are between INR 1500-1800 per person per flight depending on the airline and if booked through Make my trip or Cleartrip, they charge an additional INR 250 per person.
Airlines sometimes, especially during off-season months, cancel their flights if there haven’t been enough bookings on it to cover their costs. In this case, they are required to give passengers a full refund. If they have another flight on the same sector, they offer seats on it. However it may not always be the case and it is ideal to take the refund and make an alternative booking. (You may have to pay more if the price of flights have increased).