Airlines ‘Misguiding’, Forcing Passengers To Pay More: Parliamentary Panel

The exorbitant air rates certain domestic airline carriers charge have drawn the attention of a Parliamentary Standing Committee, which concluded that these companies are misleading the public and pushing passengers to pay more. The Committee also called attention to inaccurate information regarding the number of available seats on the aircraft and ticket costs that private airlines had posted on their websites.

“The level of misinformation can be gauged from the fact that even after the last tickets have been sold, the same number of seats are shown on the website, as indicated before the tickets sale. This indicates that airline operators are misguiding the public and forcing passengers to pay more,” the panel said in the Demand for Grants (2023-24) report of the Civil Aviation Ministry.

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In view of the above, it recommended that the Ministry formulate appropriate guidelines regarding the rationalisation of fares and publishing the correct information on the airlines’ website publishing the correct information on the website of the airlines.

It also pointed out that `The domestic airline’s sector is restoring to predatory Pricing`. “A particular airline may sell its air tickets at such a low level that other competitors cannot compete and are forced to exit the market. A company that does this will see initial losses, but eventually, it benefits by driving competition out of the market and raising its prices again,” said the report.

The Committee desired to know whether the aviation regulator, the DGCA, had at any point in time intervened to check the fares of air tickets. It also expressed concern at the fact that in the domestic sector, private airlines are charging different fares for the same industry, route, and exact direction of flights.

This is specifically so for the northeastern region and hilly areas, including Jammu & Kashmir and Ladakh, where the prices of domestic sector tickets are, sometimes, even more than the international airline sector prices.

The Committee noted that after the repeal of the Air Corporations Act 1953, airfare is market-driven, depends on market fares, and is neither established nor regulated by the government. “It notes the DGCA`s comments that the airfares were regulated for a fixed period during the Covid pandemic in compliance with Aircraft Act, 1934, and the regulation was withdrawn as the Covid pandemic abated and that airlines are free to fix reasonable tariffs under the Aircraft Rules, 1937, with regard to the cost of operation, services, reasonable profit, and generally prevailing tariff,” said the report.

With IANS Inputs