Aviation regulator DGCA has claimed in the Delhi High Court that the airlines do not charge their customers arbitrarily and exorbitantly at the time of agitations in any state of India. The submission was made by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) before a bench headed by Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal, which was hearing a plea seeking capping of airfares across the country so that passengers are not fleeced by airlines. Opposing the plea, the DGCA has told the court that in emergency situations, transportation by road and by rail are affected and only air transportation is available due to which the demand for air travel increases manifold leading to rise in fares.
“However, it is denied that the charges are irrational or arbitrary as the same are governed by the market forces, availability and circumstances,” the DGCA has said in its affidavit filed in the court. The regulator’s response came in the backdrop of a notice issued to it by the court seeking its stand regarding the claims made in the plea. The PIL filed through advocate Amit Sahni has urged the court to direct the authorities to frame “guidelines so as to put a cap on airfares and prevent the private airlines from charging arbitrarily, irrationally and exorbitantly for air flights.”
According to the petitioner, he had filed an RTI application seeking information regarding airfares and the Civil Aviation Ministry had replied that the rates were not controlled by the government. The petition has alleged that during the Jat agitation in Haryana last year private airlines had charged huge amounts from passengers and sought that a cap be put on airfares to prevent such practice.
“Private airlines companies have fleeced people even in emergent situations and the government has stood as a mute spectator,” the plea has said, adding there was an “urgent need to regulate the upper limit of airfares so that private airlines cannot fleece their customers as per their own wish.” This claim by the petitioner has been refuted by the DGCA which has contended that the petition contains no proof in support of the allegation. Capping of airfares in the backdrop of passengers’ complaints of arbitrary tariff hikes was ruled out by the Ministry of Civil Aviation which had earlier said that competition among airlines would take care of the problem.
The ministry had said that restricting the airfares will not make good business sense as it could also jeopardise the government’s regional connectivity plan, as such a move may discourage airlines from flying on non-profitable routes. In his plea, the lawyer has said “it is totally unfair on the part of respondents (Ministry and the DGCA) to state that they cannot regulate the airfare, thereby leaving the entire decision upon private companies to decide airfare as per their on wish.” The court has fixed the matter for further consideration on September 15.