Lawmakers, cutting across party lines, sought a reduction in the last-minute surge in airfares to facilitate their travel during emergencies, a demand that failed to gain favour among any of the established carriers.
The demand was made by some MPs at a meeting of the Joint Committee on Salaries and Allowances of Members of Parliament (Lok Sabha) last week, but all the airline executives who were present rejected the proposal, sources said.
The meeting was attended by officials of Air India, Jet Airways, SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir.
“The Committee had received a representation from one of the MPs from Kerala asking it to take up the issue of last minute airfares with the airlines as once he had to shell out Rs 60,000 for a flight from Kerala to Delhi. Accordingly, the Committee discussed the issue,” sources said.
At present, airlines provide assistance to lawmakers to board and deboard a plane as courtesy. In April, the government had informed Parliament that there was no move to abolish privileges extended to MPs and other VIPs at airports.
MPs will continue to enjoy facilities like being served tea, coffee and water for free at airports, have free access to the terminal building and enjoy reserved lounge facilities at international and domestic terminals, aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju had said in a written reply.
According to sources, while the airlines did not agree to the demand to drop last minute airfares, the Civil Aviation Ministry was of the view that this would led to increase in normal time fares, which are on a downward trend for almost two years now.
“The Ministry informed the Committee that just about 4-5 per cent of the total aircraft seats are booked at the last minute at a price prevailing at that time. And, if airlines were asked to lower fares for these seats as well, they might increase the average ticket prices which in turn will hit the common man,” they said.
National carrier Air India has already dropped its last minute fares to the level of AC II tier ticket prices of Rajdhani trains on several sectors including the key metro cities.
President of the fliers’ body, APAI has also opposed the demand, saying the airlines should be allowed to determine fares to protect their “commercial” interest.
“MPs are already getting so many facilities. In fact, Air India, which is surviving on the tax payers money, should utilise the funds in the tax payers’ interest only. All airlines should be allowed to take decisions which are in their commercial interest,” APAI President D Sudhakara Reddy said.