From Chennai, you can buy affordable Air tickets for international destinations including return (two-way) to say Singapore (Rs.15,000 with Indian/Jet) or Kuala Lumpur (Rs.21,000) or Bangkok (Rs.19,000 with Indian/Thai). These fares are still kept cheaper despite the fuel hikes due to the heavy competition and high load-factor. But travelling within India especially to Non-Metros (where you to do a hop from another Metro) tickets are phenomenally expensive. I knew about this but didn’t realise the magnitude on how costly they can become until I started booking the tickets for my vacation to Jaipur and Udaipur from Chennai.
From Chennai to Jaipur, only viable options are to do a transit either in New Delhi or Mumbai. The normally recommended option (because of more flight choices) is to fly to Delhi and then go by Road/Train to Jaipur. I didn’t want to go by Road as it will be little tedious and since I had only a week time I couldn’t get the tickets in Train either. I decided to go with Mumbai as MAA-BOM is shorter taking only One-and-Half Hours, compared to Two-and-Half Hours for MAA-DEL and hence a little cheaper. After few tiring hours of browsing all Airline websites, I booked myself for this itinerary MAA-BOM with Jet Airways and rest all with Indian Airlines (as they had more comfortable timings) – BOM-JAI, JAI-UDR, UDR-BOM, BOM-MAA. I normally don’t prefer low-cost airlines for family vacations as their flights tend to get enormously delayed, with the only exception for this being Paramount Airways.
As I said earlier the tickets for this travel was very expensive. For one person Onwards (MAA-BOM-JAI) costs around Rs.13,000 and Return (UDR-BOM-MAA) costs around Rs.12,500.
(Read about my Udaipur trip here)
For Jaipur to Udaipur, I thought I can go by Train. Surprisingly the trains between the cities run at odd hours – not convenient with a small kid. So I was left with going by Air even for this sector with one person ticket costing around Rs.5000. You can’t drive from Jaipur to Udaipur as it is more than 450 Kilometres. We don’t realise how big is Rajasthan (I had earlier assumed Maharashtra to be the largest state in distances between cities there) until you go and see for yourselves. The Aravali hill ranges (one of the oldest in the world) there has created diverse landscapes, so in Rajasthan, you have Desert, Hill stations, Rich fertile valleys and rivers.
Having done all the Air tickets I thought I was good to go. On landing in Jaipur on 27th (Saturday) I got an SMS from Indian Airlines saying the 4th (Saturday) October flight from Udaipur to Mumbai is cancelled. So I started my vacation with first redoing my return ticket from Udaipur to Mumbai, this time with Jet Airways. That was not all, yesterday when I called to Telecheck-in as they said the Mumbai to Chennai flight was postponed from 5:55 PM to 8:30 PM (combined with this flight). With my earlier experiences, I knew the Indian Airlines 8:30 PM almost never leaves before 10 PM, so I went ahead and cancelled it. Redid my Mumbai to Chennai as well with Jet Airways – this made it easy in transit as the baggage could be through checked-in to Chennai.
I find it really surprising how Indian Airlines is able to get away with these changes and cancellation without worrying a bit about customer satisfaction. It can’t be load-factor as the only reason, as even the Jet Airways flight from Udaipur to Mumbai was only 50% full but still, they flew and nearly on time. So next time you are travelling by Indian Airlines (Air India) have backup plans ready (or) fork up more money the first time and go with Jet Airways or Kingfisher.
Note: For government (AAI) owned Airports that to Non-Metros Jaipur and Udaipur airports were both clean and good looking. The Udaipur airport was the best with its newly done exteriors and modern interiors & rest-rooms.