Promotional fares come with a catch

T.S. Shankar

CHENNAI: Promotional fares have become the order of the day. Be it the national carrier or the private carriers, which are permitted to fly to neighbouring overseas countries, they lure travellers to fly to Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and also to some of the European countries and other Western destinations.

Various airlines have wooed people with stay and sightseeing arrangements.

But, the travel tax component has reached alarming proportions that discerning passengers fascinated by the airline announcements are rudely shocked about the varied types of taxes to be borne by an international traveller when they approach a travel agent to buy the tickets.

N.R. Kumaraswamy, Chairman of the Travel Agents Association of India (TAAI), Southern Region, explained that of late the travel agents were struggling to sustain their business due to the cut in their commission payable by the airlines. The other concern is about the travel taxes levied by the airlines which have no relevance to the basic fares published by them. Moreover, these taxes are not uniform to all airlines and each one has a different yardstick to apply.

Tax components for the destinations are the same, though the insurance surcharge might vary. However, whether taxes such as departure/arrival taxes will be added separately in the fare depends on the airlines with which the passenger chooses to travel.

The TAAI, he noted, had taken up this issue on its main agenda to discuss with the airlines in order to bring about uniformity and bring some benefit to the travellers keeping in view their role in collecting the taxes on behalf of the airlines.

Enquiries with the travel trade sources reveal that while the airlines of Indian origin were charging lesser the total tax component categorised under different heads. The fuel and insurance surcharges dominate the major portion of the tax component. The foreign carriers are quoting higher taxes when compared to those Indian operators.

Mr .D. Sudhakara Reddy, president of Air Passengers' Association of India, said as a consumer organisation and in the interest of the travelling public, his association had already taken up the issue with the Mumbai-based Advertising Standards Council of India. "The Council has acknowledged our letter and they are officially conducting an enquiry into how airlines are not transparent in the publicity blitz by hiding the facts relating to taxes, duties, and other surcharges applicable to the travel," Mr. Reddy added.

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