Be ready to loosen your purse strings if you are making a last-minute Puja plan to fly home.
Fares of flights to and from Calcutta have gone through the roof this festive season, with airlines charging many times the average ticket price for the handful of seats left.
Monday's going rate for the few economy seats available on the last city-bound flight from Mumbai on Panchami (October 19) was Rs 19,000 (one-way) ' around three times the average rate.
A similar premium was charged on the Delhi-Calcutta route, with economy tickets being sold for Rs 14,000.
The price blow is hardest on the Bangalore-Calcutta route. All economy and most business class seats on the afternoon flight of Jet Airways on October 19 have been sold. The few business class seats left are being sold for Rs 51,116 or more, against the average economy class fare of around Rs 5,000.
The tickets on the other two Panchami flights of the airline from Bangalore to Calcutta are being sold for Rs 18,000 to Rs 33,000.
Ashis Jha, a captain with a merchant navy, paid around Rs 19,000 for flying from Bangalore to Calcutta on October 19. "It's the price I am paying for planning late," said Jha.
Such is the demand for seats during Puja that IndiGo airline will operate special flights between Delhi and Calcutta on October 19, 20 and 21. The flight will take off from Delhi at 1.20pm and reach Calcutta at 3.25pm. It will leave Calcutta at 4.05pm.
Air India will operate additional flights to Delhi on the Puja days. "We may also operate special flights to Port Blair, Silchar and some other destinations depending on the availability of aircraft," said an airline spokesperson.
Sources said a high demand for seats and a drop in the number of low-priced seats on offer have resulted in the steep hike in airfares.
The maximum passenger movement to and from Calcutta is recorded during Puja. "So, most airlines cut down their lower-bracket fares by 50 per cent," said an official of a private airline.
"There is a heavy rush for last-minute bookings. Fliers are willing to pay three to seven times the normal fare," said Anil Punjabi, chairman (east), Travel Agents Federation of India.