Sharp differences erupted at a meeting called by the aviation ministry with airline chief executives on Tuesday to discuss the issue of high airfares, especially during the festive season.
Sources said while the ministry insisted that the airlines suggest ways to curb high ticket prices during the festive season, a majority of private airlines opposed the idea saying except last-minute fares, bulk of the tickets sold were at nominal rates. They also pointed out to an analysis done by the aviation regulator DGCA, which found that most tickets sold were not priced exorbitantly.
The meeting, called after Prime Minister Narendra Modi red flagged the issue of high fares, was chaired by aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju and attended by his deputy Mahesh Sharma, SpiceJet’s chairman and managing director Ajay Singh, AirAsia India CEO Mittu Chandilya, Air India CMD Ashwani Lohani, among others.
“While majority of passengers who book in advance get very good deals, the government is bothered about the 5% who book last minute,” said an airline CEO. Airlines have said they will get back to the government with their suggestions in a week to ten days.
“Sometime fares are so high that it is impossible for the common man to travel. We want some regulation but self regulation is better,” said Mahesh Sharma. He added the government will exercise all options to ensure fares are capped and “is determined to do so”.
Raju said deployment of additional capacity by airlines during festive season could help bring down fares.
“While regulation is not the solution, something certainly needs to be done to keep fares under check. It’s become cheaper to travel to places such as Bangkok and Dubai than tourist destinations within the country,” said Subhash Goyal, president, Indian Association of Tour Operators.