Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Fly with Indian Rail

I was in for a surprise when I visited the IRCTC site to book rail tickets and this banner welcomed me. I was instantly reminisced of the chain mails last year stating the irony that IRCTC hosted an ad for SpiceJet.

Not bothering with the irony, I went ahead to explore the site, realizing that it is just one of the myriad OTAs Indian Railways has stiff competition with.

The simple looking UI is powered with ajax, and provides a highly responsive and smooth process of searching and booking your tickets. The rates are a couple hundred more than had you booked them directly with the airlines, but the 10% cashback reduces the total cost by almost the same amount.

However, I could not help wondering on these lines:

  • Why does Indian Railways have to sell out flight tickets? Granted, it is not a direct competition, but they are still modes of travel; and come to think of the comparative fares between IR and lost-cost airlines.
  • How many people would actually go for this sarkari subsidiary of the state-owned Indian Railways, which doesn't work for even rail bookings half the time?
  • How much money does IRCTC make out of the OTA business? Is it worth the share of travellers that is liable to shift towards flying?
  • Since IRCTC does not allow bookings during 11:30pm to 8:00 am, I was left to wonder if the air booking would work at night ;). I hope it would, let me try it out tonight.
Anyway, an appreciable attempt by IRCTC. IMO they could strike a good deal if they come up with a functionality that lets you combine the two modes of travel; connecting airport cities to smaller ones, providing direct bookings for the two legs of travel, the way 90di does. Lets wait and watch if the alliance between rails and skies opens up a new era of domestic travel.

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