Private airlines came under the radar of a Parliamentary panel that asked the government to ensure that fliers are “not fleeced in the garb of commercialisation”, as it found fault with wide variation in fares charged by different airlines on the same sector and same duration, as well as fixing charges for selection of seats in the same flight.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture headed by BJP MP TG Venkatesh also found fault with the “apathetic and unreasonable attitude” of airlines for not using aerobridge facilities in several cases to reduce operational costs, inconveniencing passengers.
The multi-party panel objected to the “very expensive” food outlets in airports even as it asked stakeholders to consider providing a “small complimentary water bottle keeping in view the tradition of the country to give the highest regard to guests and offer water on arrival ” as well as a “small packet of biscuits” free of cost to every passenger on demand.
According to the report on Demand for Grants of the Ministry of Civil Aviation tabled in Parliament on Monday, the committee sought information on whether the government has formulated any guidelines regarding the rationalization of fares. The ministry replied that airlines are free to fix reasonable fares and that the government does not interfere.
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On airlines charging extra for seat selection, the ministry told the panel that air travel is a contractual matter between the airline and the flyer, which is commercial in nature. The panel described charging extra for seat selection as “arbitrary and unjustifiable.”
While the committee agreed that the civil aviation market grows in an open market and private players should be given a free hand, it reminded that the Aircraft Rules 1937, which specifically mentions that the fares should be reasonable and should maintain reasonable profit.
“In the above context, the committee feels that the reply of the ministry stating that air travel is purely a contractual matter between the airline and the passenger, is not at all justified. The committee is of the opinion that a balance also must be maintained between commercial interests of the airlines and the interests of the passengers,” the report said.
“The committee feels that the passengers should not be fleeced in the garb of commercialization and therefore recommends that the ministry should maintain a close watch on the fare pricing by the airlines to ensure that it is not exorbitant,” it said, adding 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 airlines.
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