Making Indian carriers offer low airfares on the Gulf route might result in discriminatory pricing and attract litigation by foreign airlines, according to the Civil Aviation Ministry.
The ministry conveyed this view to a Parliamentary panel, which sought steps to ensure that the public is protected from predatory airfares amid persisting concerns over high ticket prices in the Gulf sector.
Dissatisfied with the response, the committee told the ministry that India’s case should not be compared with any other country as there is a specific case which needs a “specific solution that is best suited to it in a given situation”.
Sharp fluctuations in airfares has been a matter of debate for long and there have been voices from many quarters, including Parliamentarians, to put in place measures to curb volatility in prices.
In its submission to the panel, the ministry said that under Aircraft Rule 1937, every airline is required to establish tariff having regard to all relevant factors including cost of operation and characteristic of service.
Stressing that government normally does not interfere in day to day commercial aspects of airlines, the ministry has said carriers generally offer low ticket prices for bookings made considerably in advance.
“In case of Indian carriers operating in Gulf sector are asked to provide much lower fare for Indian citizen, the issue may translate into a discriminatory or predatory pricing practices and invite litigation by foreign carriers.
“Also, the issue of international operations by domestic airlines are covered under bilateral agreements between Indian government and foreign governments,” the ministry said.
However, the Department-related Parliamentary Standing Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture said the ministry’s explanation is purely technical suggesting that it is unable to do anything under the law.
“The committee fails to understand whose interest is sought to be sub-served by taking such a stand that too before a Parliamentary committee which is empowered to suggest necessary modification in our rules, regulations that are coming in our way for correcting airfares,” the panel said in its report tabled in the Parliament last week.
Further, the panel has recommended that the ministry should come up with measures to tackle the problem of predatory airfares after consulting all the stakeholders.