Proposal to ensure 'one-hour journey' air tickets for Rs 2,500
There is a proposal to ensure that only Rs 2,500 is charged per ticket for one-hour flights, government told the Lok Sabha on Tuesday amid concerns expressed by members over exorbitant airfares. The government also said it will hold consultations with the airlines to explore the possibility of curbing the menace of charging exorbitant airfares during emergency situations.
"The Ministry will commence the process of consultations with stakeholders, including airlines, to explore possibilities ... of containing fares," Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said while replying to a debate on Demand for Grants for the Ministries of Civil Aviation and Tourism which was approved by the House later.
During the debate, members voiced concern over exorbitant airfares during emergency situations like unprecedented floods in Chennai and Srinagar and the recent Jat agitation.
Raju said that during the Chennai floods, the airlines did help the government to evacuate stranded people by operating flights from Arakonam air base to Bengaluru and Hyderabad. He said airlines also came forward to operate additional flights during floods in Srinagar, earthquake in Nepal and the Jat agitation in Haryana. When a member from Kerala complained of exorbitant fares on the Gulf route, the Minister remarked, "we can control only things in India". Minister of State for Civil Aviation Mahesh Sharma said the government is working on strengthening regional air connectivity and in this regard, there is a proposal to ensure that only Rs 2,500 per ticket is charged for one-hour flights.
Raju said a comparative study undertaken by the Ministry for January-March 2013 and the same period during 2016 showed a reduction of 18.10 per cent in airfares. This shows that the airlines are passing the benefits from lower ATF (Aviation Turbine Fuel) costs to the passengers, he added. In recent times, concerns have been expressed in various quarters about rising airfares despite fall in fuel prices, which account for over 40 per cent of a carrier's total operating costs.
"India is a safe country. India is not an unsafe country," Sharma said even as observed that safety is a matter of concern for everyone and a single incident can have multiple effects. "Safety, security and hospitality are the pillars of tourism... We have tried to address all of them," the Tourism Minister noted.
On the Tourism Ministry not able to spend its budgetary allocation in the last fiscal, Sharma said that was due to introduction of new schemes for which there was delay from state governments in giving their detailed project reports. As a result, the funds could not be fully utilised, he added.