Airlines extorting passengers: RS Dy Chairman

Airlines are resorting to extortion of passengers, Rajya Sabha Deputy Chairman P J Kurien said on Wednesday (Mar 11) as a demand for regulating airfares was made in the Upper House of Parliament.

“This is a very important issue. There is extortion by airlines, especially during festival season. They are selling tickets at exorbitantly high fares.  Government should take some action,” Kurien said as Congress MP Rajiv Shukla raised the issue.

Kurien’s comments came as several members supported Shukla’s demand during Zero Hour for setting up an airfare regulatory authority to look at fares.

Shukla, who is also a member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture that deals with Civil Aviation Ministry, said private airlines were fixing fares “arbitrarily” and their tickets were priced exorbitantly.

He said the issue is important because it is not just the economically well-off sections that travel but weaker sections also.

Complaining that the airlines are not passing on the benefit of the slump in jet fuel (ATF) prices to passengers, he said it should have translated into lower air ticket prices for the passengers.

Minister of State for Parliamentary Affairs Mukthar Abbas Naqvi assured the House that they would do the needful.

The issue of airfare is raised in Parliament at regular intervals and even raised in Question Hour.

On March 2 in Lok Sabha, three questions were on airfares while on March 9, there was one.

To questions on arbitrary airfares, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Mahesh Sharma informed Lok Sabha that government does not fix airfares and airlines are free to fix reasonable tariff after looking into factors like operation cost, reasonable profit and generally prevailing tariff.

He said the DGCA has issued instructions to airlines to display their tariff sheet on their websites in various fare categories.

The DGCA has also set up a Tariff Monitoring Group in 2010 that monitors airfares on certain routes selected on random basis to ensure that the airlines do not charge airfares outside the range declared by them.

“The random analysis has shown that the airfares remained well within the fare bucket uploaded by the airlines on the respective websites,” Sharma said.

(An edited version appeared in Deccan Herald on Mar 12, 2015)

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