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MPs want their seats to be upgraded to business class in flights

An MP is entitled to 34 free air journeys in a year, can be accompanied by a companion, and can travel business class.

india Updated: Jan 19, 2018 07:23 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Member of Parliament,MP,Indian airlines
An MP is entitled to 34 free air journeys in a year, can be accompanied by a companion, and can travel business class . If a member doesn’t utilise all 34 tickets, the remaining ones are carried over to the next year.(HT File Photo)

Members of a House panel on consumer affairs want domestic airlines to automatically upgrade members of Parliament to business class on flights that have vacant seats in the premium cabin, a person familiar with the proceedings said on Thursday.

At the meeting of the standing committee on food, consumer affairs and public distribution, panel chairman JC Divakar Reddy, a Telugu Desam Party MP, asked civil aviation secretary Rajiv Nayan Choubey to issue a circular issuing these guidelines to all domestic airlines. Air India, Jet Airways and Vistara are the only airlines that offer business class seats in domestic flights. Airlines such as Spice Jet and Indigo have seats with extra leg space that are sold at a premium.

“Why don’t you send a circular saying that, on identification, if there is a seat vacant in the business class, MPs should be provided a seat?” Reddy told Choubey in the meeting. Another member, Samajwadi Party’s Ravi Prakash Verma, suggested that the civil aviation ministry should issue an order and send a copy to the panel.

A member of the House panel explained the rationale behind the demand. “We received specific complaints about MPs being denied business class seats despite vacancies. Once, there was a complaint that even after issuing a business class boarding class, the airline asked the MP at the last moment to sit in the economy section,” said the member, who asked not to be named.

An MP is entitled to 34 free air journeys in a year, can be accompanied by a companion, and can travel business class . If a member doesn’t utilise all 34 tickets, the remaining ones are carried over to the next year. “MPs, however, travel much more during a year and often they require to fly for political engagements or personal work,” said a member of the Lok Sabha, supporting the demand.

CPI(M)’s Lok Sabha MP Md Salim, however, countered the members’ suggestions, and said, “A Parliament panel should work steadfastly for the service of the people, and not self-service for MPs.”

The question of MPs being allotted vacant business class seats had first cropped up last year at a meeting of the parliamentary panel on civil aviation. In March last year, Shiv Sena’s Lok Sabha member from Osmanabad, Ravindra Gaikwad, was accused of assaulting a 60-year-old duty manager of Air India because he had to travel economy class though he had an open business class ticket. The flight he was on only had an economy class cabin. Gaikwad was temporarily barred from flying by all domestic carriers.

Air India, Vistara and Jet Airways did not respond to requests for comments by the time of going to print.

First Published: Jan 19, 2018 07:23 IST