It could soon turn into an all out war in the OTA space with the government owned IRCTC announcing plans of expanding its low key entry into booking air tickets online. Although, it remains to be seen how aggressively it goes on to do it, the move would pitch it directly against private OTAs like MakeMyTrip, Yatra and Cleartrip who struck the first shot by starting online booking of train tickets few years ago.
Till then, train tickets booking online was a monopoly of IRCTC which has gained a major traffic over the years and is one of the biggest e-commerce sites in India. IRCTC had started air ticket bookings sometime back but it has remained a low key affair.
But according to this report in Business Standard it is turning ambitious and is tying up with airlines directly to sell air tickets through its portal.
"We will expand our airline ticket booking operations by offering corporate travel and also provide a complete package. This would be a major thrust area for us now," according to IRCTC chief Rakesh Tandon. It has reportedly already tied up with Air India and Jet Airways.
Last we checked the air ticket section on IRCTC showed this message:
"As part of our commitment to serve you better, our booking system will be temporarily unavailable. We are enhancing the system and would be back soon."
The big differentiator for IRCTC is the humongous traffic due to train bookings and if it manages to get all the airlines on board it might create a serious contender for private OTAs.
One suggestion for IRCTC: why not integrate train and air ticket booking as an option where a person not finding a train ticket is automatically shown the air connectivity option to reach the same destination (nearest airports as afterall flights can't match the reach of trains) and vice versa. Indeed, this could also be a feature that the OTAs can deliberate on.