Minister says dynamic air ticketing ok, as parliament panel asks for price limit
New Delhi, Jan 5 (IANS) In a strongly worded report a Parliamentary Standing Committee has slammed Indigo for manhandling of a passenger by its staff and says airlines serve awful food and do not efficiently man check-in counters.
It also suggested to the Union government to fix limits for airline tickets and cancellation charges.
But Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said on Friday that the domestic airline industry followed the "global practice of dynamic pricing".
The Minister defended the industry against the latest observations made by the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture which said airlines were over-pricing their tickets.
"Globally, airlines follow the practice of dynamic pricing and we did not find that our airlines were doing anything different from the global practices," Sinha told reporters.
"There are less than 1 per cent of all the prices that actually go above the average... We have agencies such as DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) and CCI (Competition Commission of India)... If anyone feels something wrong is happening, they can approach these agencies and action will be taken."
The 26-page report "Issues related to improving consumers' satisfaction of airlines" was prepared after consulting with Civil Aviation officials and various industry stakeholders.
"The Committee notes that around festivals and for bookings made closer to the date of travel, some airlines are charging more than 10 times of the advance booking fare. The Committee observes that this is arbitrary. A deregulatory environment does not mean unlimited freedom of exploitation," the report said.
The panel said the pricing mechanisms applicable in the "developed countries may not be suitable for India".
It noted that even after a 50 per cent reduction of the ATF (aviation turbine fuel) prices, the airlines had not passed on the benefit of reduction in ATF prices to the consumers.
The committee also said cancellation charges levied by private airlines were arbitrarily set.
Taking note of manhandling of a passenger by Indigo staff, the committee said that recently there were many incidents of discourteous and rude behavior by airlines staff, both ground staff and cabin crew. "Some of them were reported in the media and a large number of them went unreported. While narrating some of the incidents of misbehavior in airlines, especially in Indigo, majority of the Members opined that the attitude of airlines staff is very condescending, often unco-operative and on many occasions, downright rude," it said.
Indigo, however, was unreachable for comments despite several attempts to contact them till the time the story went on wire.
The Committee said that merely taking strictest action against the employees does not absolve the airline of its guilt of the incident.
"The Committee observes that the problems affecting the airlines are not personal; it is institutional. An institution like Indigo has to develop a consumer friendly approach in dealing with their passengers. The Committee believes that being a leader in market share, Indigo needs to look inward and find out the reasons for the discourteous attitude and rude and indifferent behavior of their employees, whether it is their cabin crew or the ground staff. The Committee emphasizes that the arrogant behavior of employees should stop."
"The crew should be trained to be more polite than saying 'please' or 'thank you'. The passengers expect a civilised behavior from the cabin crew and the ground staff as the salaries to the cabin crew and ground staff are paid from the income earned from the passengers," the report added.
The report also slammed various airlines for not efficiently manning checkin counters and creating artificial situations to deny boarding to confirmed ticket holders.
"The check-in process and collection of luggage are cumbersome and time consuming. What the passenger wants is a quick checkin, without long queues and a smooth process of security check.
"Despite the huge claims of airlines regarding the check-in process, the Committee is compelled to observe that the check-in counters are in a mess, especially those of the low cost airlines such as Indigo."
The Committee said the airlines are overbooking flights and creating later, "artificial situations to deny boarding to the confirmed ticket holders. Many a times it has been noticed that adequate number of personnel are not posted to man the check-in counters."
It recommended that arrangements be made to ensure that the passenger does not spend more than 10 minutes in a queue at the check-in counter to get a boarding pass.
Criticising the food quality offered by various airlines, the report said: "Many Members of the Committee pointed out the need to ensure better quality of food served in the airlines. They also said that the menu offered should be changed periodically. In some cases, the food offered is awful."
It said the Committee was informed that there were great difficulties in getting water and food in low cost airlines especially in Indigo.
"In Indigo, the food has to be pre-booked and on board, if someone demands food, they refuse to provide the food even to those who are diabetic and suffering from other medical conditions. A passenger has to report to the airport counter 2 hours before the departure time and one has to spend a few more hours in the flight without food and water and it is a horrible thing to face."
The Committee recommended that IndiGo and other low cost airlines should take adequate steps to ensure that food is available to the passengers on demand especially to those who are having some medical conditions.