Parliamentary Standing Committee raises concern on air fare pricing

Private airlines and their ticket pricing policy have come under the radar of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport Tourism and Culture, which has raised concerns over wide variance in fares charged on the same route and of the same duration by different operators.

Separately charging seats of choice and cancellation costs being higher than base fare and fuel surcharge are some of the other red flags that the committee has raised in its report.

Headed by BJP MP TG Venkatesh, the Parliamentary Standing Committee recommended that “at least for the same sector, route and duration of flight, in all the private airlines, the ministry should issue guidelines so as to ensure similar or least variation in fares among all airline.”

“The committee is also of the opinion that fixing of different fares for selection of seats in the same flight is arbitrary and unjustifiable. Hence, on the principle of equity feels that all the seats in a flight should have the same fare,” it said in a report tabled in the Rajya Sabha on Monday.

Pointing out that “air fares should be reasonable and should maintain reasonable profit”, it felt that the argument by the Civil Aviation ministry, which stated air travel as a contractual matter between the airline and the passenger, was “not at all justified”.

“The committee is of the opinion that a balance must be maintained between the commercial interests of the airlines and the interest of the passengers,” it said in the report adding that “passengers should not be fleeced in the garb of commercialisation”.

It recommended that the Civil Aviation ministry maintains a close watch on the fare pricing by the airlines “to ensure that it is not exorbitant”.

Apart from raising concerns on the air fare and the pricing policy adopted by the airlines, the multi-party Parliamentary Standing Committee noted that price of food and beverage at the airports were “very expensive”; and recommended that the ministry comes up with guidelines or suggestions to ensure that food and beverages are “not sold higher than their MRP”.

Airlines have also drawn flak for not using aero-bridge facilities (in order to reduce operational costs), despite passengers being charged for it. The attitude has been called as “apathetic” and has recommended that the ministry carry out surprise checks to ensure compliance and also penalise errant operators.

Praise for Operation Ganga

The Center was also praised for the “well-coordinated” efforts that were taken up by Ministries of Civil Aviation, Defense and External Affairs to evacuate stranded Indians from Ukraine.

Some private airlines and Indian Air Force are engaged in this effort, through special flights. The committee applauds this well-coordinated humanitarian efforts of the Ministries of Civil Aviation, Defense and External Affairs, and recommends that “airlift and all the other possible means of evacuation efforts should continue till all the stranded Indian nationals in Ukraine are evacuated safely,” it observed.

Published on

March 14, 2022

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