Mahesh Sharma says norms can be found to regulate airfares

New Delhi, July 23 (IANS) After a flip-flop over new airport around the national capital, Tourism Minister Mahesh Sharma appears to have two minds over capping or regulating airfares – one view was communicated in parliament and the other at an event here on Thursday.

The price capping could be done through three ways,” said Sharma, also minister of state for civil aviation. He listed them as talks with airlines, getting the regulator to put a mechanism in place or by deriving the tariff based on the fares of national carrier Air India.

“This is a matter of discussion to put price predating and price capping on the airfares,” he said, adding: “During the earthquake in Nepal, we had decided the fares for Air India to be Rs.4,000 and all the other airlines had also kept their fares around it.”

He also said in a lighter vein that if his ministry seeks advise from lawmakers, a majority of them would favour capping of fares. The MPs, cutting across party lines, have been seeking the intervention of the government to check steep hikes in airfare fares.

In the past, Sharma has spoken in different tunes over a proposed new airport around Delhi.

In Rajya Sabha on Tuesday, Sharma, had said a written reply: “As per prevailing regulations, it is the prerogative of individual airlines to establish their process of determination of airfares. As such, government does not interfere in the commercial aspects of airlines.”

He also said: “Airfares are not regulated by the government as they are determined by interplay of market forces.”

The senior minister at Rajiv Gandhi Bhavan, Ashok Gajapathi Raju, has on several occasions in the past maintained that putting caps and floors on airfares will have their own implications and that pricing should best be left to the carriers to decide.

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