We are not fully satisfied with the steps taken so far, says Patel

The government on Monday said it was not “fully satisfied” with the steps taken by domestic airlines to lower the unusually high fares.

After the first meeting of the newly formed Civil Aviation Economic Advisory Council (CAEAC), Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said: “Astronomical fares need to be controlled. We have already advised the airlines to do further more [in this regard].”

The CAEAC decided to set up a small working group, comprising representatives of the air carriers and passengers' associations, to recommend measures to “ensure transparency” in fixing airfares, keeping the directives of the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in mind.

“Mute spectator”

Maintaining that the government could not remain a “mute spectator” to airlines charging exorbitant fares, Mr. Patel said “we are not fully satisfied” with the steps taken by the airlines so far. “Spot fares [last moment tariff] cannot be unreasonable,” he said.

Indicating that the airlines should take the measures recommended by the DGCA within the “time-frame,” Mr. Patel told reporters that the DGCA could take “further action” under Rule 135 of Aircraft Rules, which deals with transparency in publicising airfares.

The DGCA and the Civil Aviation Ministry have already issued directives to the domestic carriers to maintain transparency in airfares so that passengers are aware what price they would be charged if they travel on a particular sector on a given date, he said.

Following the DGCA directives, the airlines brought down tariffs by 20-25 per cent. The regulator had asked the airlines to ensure transparency by keeping passengers informed about the fares available sector-wise and date-wise in layman's language.

The working group would meet in a fortnight and the CAEAC would meet in January to review the situation, Mr. Patel said.

The CAEAC was set up following a surge in airfares in November without any increase in operational costs, to advise the Ministry on financial policy issues and recommend a road map to boost investment in the sector.

Apart from the Ministry officials, CEOs of several airlines and airport operators, representatives of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and industry associations such as the Federation of Indian Airlines, the Confederation of Indian Industry, the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry and The Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry of India, representatives of consumer fora and travel agents also attended the meeting.