The government has advised airlines to stop imposing the "air congestion surcharge" of Rs 150 they had been adding to the price of each ticket since December 1.
"I do not accept this position. I will, in fact, ask all airlines not to impose this surcharge," Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel told reporters on the sidelines of International Air Transport Association (IATA) conference on Tuesday. He added he would soon convene a meeting of top executives of domestic carriers to discuss the matter.
Reeling under severe operational losses, compounded by the substantial amounts of fuel their aircrafts waste when they are forced to hover in the air above airports because of the air traffic congestion below, many domestic carriers like Kingfisher, Jet Airways and Air Sahara had unilaterally decided to impose this 'surcharge' on all domestic flights.
From April to June this year, all the functioning airports in India together handled 22.52 million passengers, 16.61 million of them in the domestic sector.
This was a whopping 38.1 per cent increase over the 16.3 million passengers carried during the same period of last year. Airlines have also finalised orders for more than 500 more aircraft that would increase the seat capacity of the domestic aviation industry by 78,000 seats, but which would also add considerably to the prevailing airport congestion once they start operating.
Patel, however, said that congestion was limited to only Delhi and Mumbai airports. He added that he would "advise" government-owned carrier Indian (Indian Airlines) not to impose the surcharge.
"I will advise Indian not be a part of this move. We can't mandate them but it's our advice," he said
He added however, that airlines were free to raise fares, provided this was not called a 'surcharge'. "The government does not interfere in the fixing of fares," he said.
Asked to respond, a Kingfisher airline spokesman said they would not remove the surcharge.