Apex court asks regulator to check airfare hike

Apex court asks regulator to check airfare hike

Airlines told to explain maximum, minimum charges

Apex court asks regulator to check airfare hike

The Supreme Court on Thursday questioned airlines regulator DGCA about its inability to check increase in airfares, which burdened the passengers.

The apex court also directed the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) to file a detailed affidavit stating the tariff structure, “which shall fairly explain all the components and also the total fare which is collected from the passengers on the basis of these components, to and fro tariff as well as the maximum and the minimum fare in a journey.”

A bench of justices D K Jain and Madan B Lokur said the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) cannot wash its hand of the responsibility of regulating airfare.

The bench said according to Section 135 (4) of the Aircraft Rules, the airlines should submit tariff plans to the DGCA, which can definitely interfere in capacity of a regulator. “The DGCA is supposed to be the watchdog, but it is not at all bothered about the passengers. Will they ever be refunded the extra money charged? Gullible passengers believe they have been made to pay a certain amount after a scrutiny by the government but that is clearly not so,” the bench observed.

The court also asked the DGCA to file a comprehensive affidavit, recording all instructions or orders passed regarding fixing tariff and collecting different charges from the passengers. “The DGCA shall also clarify as to what other charges can be recovered from the passengers by airlines, in addition to the base fare and whether base fare also included government levies and taxes,” the court said.

The DGCA was also told to explain the follow-up actions. The circular issued by the office of the DGCA directed “the domestic airlines to ensure that the fare offered remained within the fare band uploaded on the website of respective airlines and no upward charge is affected due to continuing airline crisis or surge in demand.”

The court told both the DGCA and the FIA to file their affidavits by Monday. A response filed by the FIA  disclosed that the DGCA, on December 17, issued a circular prohibiting all airlines from levying transaction fee to be paid by an airline to a travel agent for bookings. The circular had come to their knowledge “very recently,” it added.

Senior advocate U U Lalit, appearing for the FIA, admitted that they were still continuing with the practice. Justifying the occasional hefty fares, he said these charges were levied because of the market forces, coupled with the regulator’s assessment of capital expenditure.

The court, however, was not convinced and observed that no charge beyond the permissible limit mandated by the statutes could be allowed. “If they sought to levy anything extra, the law must be changed first.”

The apex court was hearing a matter challenging a decision of the Airports Economic Development Authority, which had dismissed a plea against user development and airport development fees.

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