Airlines to suggest ways to curb high air fares: Minister

New Delhi, Sep 15 (IANS) The government on Tuesday asked airlines to submit suggestions on “how to curb high air fares, especially during festive seasons.”

“During the meeting, we have asked the airlines to submit their suggestions and plans on how to curb high air fares,” Civil Aviation Minister P. Ashok Gajapathi Raju said after meeting the heads of all the domestic airlines here.

“As every airline has a different business model, their plans and suggestions will also be different. So, every airline has been asked to submit their proposals.”

According to the minister, a recent study conducted by the aviation regulatory Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) did not find any exponential rise in air fares.

“They (airlines) are required to publish their highest and lowest fares in a price basket on their websites. Till now all have been found to be within the price basket range,” the union minister said.

“The government does not wish to cap air fares or regulate it. But we need to find out a mechanism to control high fares, which happen at festive season or due to other seasonal variations.”

The current regulatory mechanism set up by the DGCA requires all airlines to allocate a certain number of seats in a set fare basket and publish the information on their websites.

After that the carriers are free to decide the tariff as long as the fares charged by them do not exceed the established and displayed tariff. There is also an air fare monitoring cell set up by the watchdog to keep a vigil on fares charged on some selected routes randomly.

The issue of high air fares has been also raised in parliament — with a group of MPs even lodging a complaint with the Competition Commission of India. But officials said little can be done as of now under the current legislations.

The Aircraft Rules, 1937, give airlines a free hand in deciding air fares.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi also has called for urgent remedial action against the practice of “predatory pricing” — when the cost of tickets booked at the last-minute shoots up beyond the means of distraught passengers.

“The prime minister had met few Indians in the UAE recently and they told him about high air fares during the festival of Onam. These high air fares do not allow families to travel together. The prime minister was very concerned,” the minister elaborated.

On August 27, Minister of State for Civil Aviation and Tourism Mahesh Sharma said that the government was considering four ways to deal with predatory pricing.

“We can start a consultation process with all stakeholders to find a way out. A mechanism by the regulator can also be put into place or we can use the national carrier Air India to counter the trend,” Sharma said.

“There are also proposals for reserving a minimum number of seats, which can be allocated to the passengers in distress or in need to travel for some kind of emergencies.”

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