Inflated holiday pricing by airline companies draws Parliamentary Committee’s ire

New Delhi:A Parliamentary Committee has criticized airline companies over surge pricing closer to festival seasons
and holidays and questioned the government’s seriousness to curb such exorbitant pricing.

The standing committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture termed the surge pricing as “arbitrary” saying that “some airlines are charging more than ten times of the advanced booking fare.”

The Government, in its ‘Action Taken Report’ tabled in the Rajya Sabha, responded to the concerns raised by the committee that the pricing norms followed by airline companies were compliant with global standards wherein “pricing systems runs in multiple levels (buckets or RBDs).” The Government also added in its reply that “prices are fixed by airlines keeping in mind the market, demand, seasonality and other market forces.”

However, the Parliamentary Standing Committee was scathing in its response to the Government’s defense of pricing structures of airline companies. “The reply does not reflect the seriousness of the efforts made by the ministry in containing the surge in airfares and the resultant profiteering by different airlines,” added the Parliamentary subcommittee.

Recently, a number of examples have cropped up of passengers venting their frustration over rising ticket prices and in some cases anger, when airlines boosted prices of connections flying into destinations where there were weather disturbances that resulted in high traffic in that particular sector. Twitter users have posted images of airlines charging exponential rates for tickets to a number of North East Indian destinations where flight connectivity is still in its nascent stage.

During the Kerala floods in August of 2018, examples of airlines companies charging triple the normal rates were observed which prompted the Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu to intervene and issue a tweet imploring airlines to focus on relief and rescue and not profit from a disaster.

“We have advised airlines to be more sensitive to situation arising out of #KeralaFlooding & keep airfares in check. It’s a humanitarian cause Thx to all for agreeing with my suggestions to carry free of charge the #KeralaFloodRelief related material. All efforts ongoing for relief,” tweeted Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu.

Government in its reply to the concerns raised by the Parliamentary committee argued that airline companies had introduced ‘APEX pricing’ or Advance Purchase Excursion Fare which means cheaper rates for advance purchase of tickets but on the flip side, in most cases it also incurred higher cancellation fees. “Airlines have introduced Apex- 90, in addition to existing advance purchase schemes of 60 days, 30 days, 14 days etc., in which highly discounted fares being offered which would entail travelling even during peak seasons on low fares,” replied Ministry of Civil Aviation to the Parliamentary Committee’s concern.

However, this reply by the Government on APEX pricing was also countered by the Parliamentary committee wherein the stressed that the ministry needed to take active steps to ensure more low fare bucket pricing was made available to passengers. “Keep the airfares at minimum affordable level for the benefit of common man. The Committee strongly feels that an upper cap of airfare in each Sector is the need of the hour.”