NEW DELHI: Air India (AI) has sold over 22,000 seats in 15 hours of opening bookings for Vande Bharat Mission-III outbound flights to North America and Europe. The huge pent-up demand to travel out of India and these Air India flights being the only option this month at least, saw AI website getting crores of hits and people had a tough time trying to grab a seat.
“Sale of tickets commenced at 5 pm Friday for select destinations in USA, Canada, UK and Europe under Phase-3 of VBM. Our website experienced 6-7 times more activity. Over 22,000 seats have been sold overall till 8 am. More seats to more destinations will be added in due course,” AI Tweeted on 9.20 am Saturday.
But given the massive demand and tickets being sold on only AI channels, people faced a difficult time.
The maximum demand is for flights to the US, with connections to San Francisco and Chicago being the most sought after there. A senior AI official said people should not panic. The website slowed down and many could not access it. “We will put more flights if required,” said a senior official.
Passengers wonder why did AI not sell its inventory through online travel agents. “This is an international health emergency and AI could have told the OTAs that they will not get any commission for these ticket sales. And that they should do this as a national service by waiving off their commissions. A big country with huge travel demand like India cannot have just one website to meet the outbound travel demand of its people. The website will obviously slow down or crash,” said another passenger.
Air India is operating 75 additional flights to North American destinations like New York, Newark, Chicago, Washington, San Francisco, Vancouver and Toronto this month and foreign nationals can fly out on them. Resumption of schedule international flights will take some time and till then the Vande Bharat flights will fly eligible people in and out of India.