Millennium Post

Fix ceiling on economy class air fares: House committee

A parliamentary panel on Friday recommended for fixing of an upper limit for the economy class airfares to curb the “exorbitant” air fares during the peak tourist seasons. The panel, headed by Trinamool Congress Rajya Sabha MP Kanwar Deep Singh, also recommended to the ministry to ensure that airlines pass on the benefit of the 50 per cent reduction in jet fuel price to the consumers by way of slashing fares.

“The Committee also noticed that the airfares are exorbitant during the peak tourist seasons which are also causing hindrance to passenger flow in the country... “The Committee also recommends that, in view of the predatory charges levied by the airlines during peak times, the Government should fix an upper limit especially in the economy class of airfares so that there should not be unhealthy practice of raising fares exorbitantly by the airliners,” the Department-Related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture said in its 231st report, tabled in Parliament. Suggesting the Government for launching more flight to the Middle East (where a large number of Indian expats live) especially during the summer holidays to accommodate the peak season demand, the panel said that “The Prime Minister in one of his visits to Middle East has already asked the Ministry of Civil Aviation to do something about such prices.” 

Prime Minister had last August expressed “concern” over predatory pricing by the domestic carriers after he reportedly received a representation that airfares are high during the Onam festival that is celebrated in Kerala. The Committee received numerous complaints about high air fares and high charges levied by airlines and airports operators making it very expensive for the air travelers, the report said.

“The Committee received comments from the Ministry of Civil Aviation in this matter...Predatory pricing of airfare is hurting not only the individual passenger but country’s economy as well. The explanation given by the Ministry of Civil Aviation is purely technical suggesting that they are unable to do anything under existing laws,” it said.  

Observing this (explanation) amounts to “abdicating” their (ministry’s) basic responsibilities of protecting the consumers, the report said, “the Committee fails to understand whose interest is sought to be served by taking such a stand that too before a Parliamentary Committee which is empowered to suggest necessary modification in our rules, regulations that are coming in our way for correcting airfares.” “Let us not compare Indian case with any other country. India has a specific case which needs a specific solution that is best suited to it in a given situation.

“The Committee, therefore, strongly recommends that the Ministry of Civil Aviation should specify the limitations, legal and otherwise, which need to be amended or other measures to be put in place to tackle this problem after consulting all the stakeholders,” it said.

Noting that the price of aviation turbine fuel in Delhi came down to Rs 35,127 per kilo litre as on March 1 this year compared to Rs 74,204.74 per kilo litre on December 1, 2013, the report said, “the Committee, however, notes that even after 50 per cent reduction of the ATF prices over a period of time, the airlines have not passed on the benefit of reduction in ATF prices to the consumers.” 

The Committee recommends that the Ministry should take effective steps to ensure that the airlines pass on the benefit to the travellers by reducing the air fares.
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