Concerned over the "exorbitant fares" being charged by some domestic airlines, the government has warned that it would not hesitate to crack the whip if airlines don’t fall in line.
"Airlines have been charging exorbitant fares on most of the routes. We have taken a very serious note of this and the DGCA has sent notices to all airlines," said civil aviation minister Praful Patel, while talking to reporters on the sidelines of a conference organised by industry chamber FICCI here on Thursday.
Airfares on certain routes, including Delhi-Mumbai have soared as high as 300% post Diwali. Last week, the aviation regulator, the directorate general of civil aviation, had issued a circular, asking the airlines to "furnish a copy of the route-wise tariff across its network in various fare categories, in the manner it is offered in the market, to DGCA on the first day of every calendar month."
The regulator had also asked airlines to publish airfares on their websites or in daily newspapers on a regular basis.
"The huge increase in prices is totally inappropriate and arbitrary. The DGCA has taken a serious note of this. It has issued notice to the airlines and in fact, has already called and met them. The DGCA would evoke its special powers if airlines don’t act responsibly," he said.
"This kind of predatory pricing cannot be justified and it cannot be allowed to continue. Fares on lower and higher price band on every sector will have to be notified," he said. "I am not saying airlines don’t earn money but we have to keep the interest of the consumers in mind," he added.
The minister also said that the aviation sector in India has done reasonably well in a short span of time. "The growth has been in the vicinity of 20%. We have 100 airports in the country at present and in the near future, India would need around 400 airports," Patel said, adding that India along with China would be fastest growing aviation markets in the world. For the first time this year, the country domestic traffic touched 50 million.
Describing aviation as the sunrise sector of India, he said the country was poised to become a hub for all civil aviation facilities because of the availability of a critical mass that would make aviation activities economically viable.
"Aviation is going to be the biggest beneficiary of economic growth. If 10% of Indians flew once a year that would mean that the aviation sector has to grow by 5-7%" he said.