Indian airlines to mull lowering ticket cancellation charges

Written by PTI | New Delhi | Updated: Sep 14 2013, 04:18am hrs
Indian carriers today agreed to consider lowering air ticket cancellation and date change charges, as the government decided to create ombudsmen at Delhi and Mumbai airports to redress flyers' grievances.

At a meeting with airline CEOs and top officials here, the Civil Aviation Ministry also decided to amend Aircraft Act and Rules to safeguard the interests of aircraft leasing companies, many of which have started imposing stringent conditions for leasing planes to Indian carriers in the aftermath of Kingfisher Airlines shutting down.

Civil Aviation Secretary K N Shrivastava, who chaired the meeting, also suggested that domestic carriers should increase operations particularly to those states which have slashed taxes on jet fuel.

This was recommended at a meeting earlier this week in which the state governments wanted enhancement of air operations in lieu of their considering reducing value added tax on aviation turbine fuel (ATF).

The meeting was attended among others by top Ministry and DGCA officials, besides IndiGo CEO Aditya Ghosh, Air India Director Nasir Ali and senior officers of Jet Airways and SpiceJet.

On last week's hike in cancellation and date change charges by a couple of airlines to as high as Rs 1,500, Shrivastava said, "We asked them (airlines) to moderate it ....reduce it and have a graded system."

A graded system would mean lower charges for cancellation or changing the date of travel well ahead of the original date for which the ticket was booked. "The airlines have agreed to consider it and said they will come up with a formula soon."

Regarding a large number of passenger complaints, he said, "Time has come to implement the ombudsman system. We will have ombudsman set up in Delhi and Mumbai to begin with. Then, depending on experience, we will have them in major centres."

Regarding problems faced by Indian carriers in leasing aircraft in the recent months, the Civil Aviation Secretary said the global leasing companies were "wary" of doing business in India after the Kingfisher shutdown.

The shutdown had led Airports Authority of India to take over several aircraft, including leased ones, till the Vijay Mallya-owned carrier cleared its dues.

Banks and other lenders also contemplated similar moves and there were several court cases, with the leasing firms, which actually owned these planes, not able to get them back.

After their experiences with Kingfisher, the leasing firms had "made life difficult" for Indian carriers by putting stringent conditions for leasing aircraft, Shrivastava said.

"To ensure government's commitment to abide by the Cape Town Convention, we have decided to incorporate changes in Aircraft Act and Rules (1934) to align with the Convention and satisfy the lessors," he said in reply to questions.

Cape Town Convention is a global treaty to standardise transactions involving movable property like aircraft and their engines, railway equipment and space assets.

On enhancing regional connectivity, Shrivastava said a policy on the issue was on the verge of being finalised.

"We asked the airlines to start their homework on how to go ahead. The steps would include acquiring small aircraft and deciding on the preferred destinations (Tier-II and III destinations). They expressed keenness in this regard."

Referring to decisions taken at the recent state aviation ministers' meeting here, he said the airlines were ready to launch more operations from non-metro airports like Bagdogra-Kolkata, Agartala-Kolkata, Coimbatore-Mumbai and Coimbatore- Delhi. Some of them would be launched in the next 30-60 days or during the coming Winter Schedule.

Regarding flights to places like Leh, Andaman and Nicobar and Lakshadweep islands, the Ministry suggested that the airlines could consider charging special fares for the local residents and dynamic fares for tourists. "Distinction needs to be made between tourists and locals who want to travel to the mainland for routine work," he said.