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Parliamentary panel doubts DGCA

New Delhi: A parliamentary panel has expressed doubts on whether the DGCA had taken any step to prevent the "sudden surge" in air fares and asked the aviation regulator to evolve measures to prevent flyers from being "harassed".

Observing that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) was already empowered to check airlines from indulging in excessive or predatory pricing, the Committee on Estimates said it had "doubts about DGCA taking any cautionary step on these lines".

It also pointed out that while visiting the various airline websites, "it is found that very few scheduled airlines are following the directive" issued by DGCA to bring about transparency in published air fares. "The Committee would like to know as to what perceptible difference has been achieved in the field of air fare regulation by the government in recent months," the report said.

Had the regulator taken any steps in this regard, excessive air tariffs which had earlier risen exorbitantly in December 2010 "would not have happened," the Committee said in its report presented in Parliament last week.

Acknowledging that the government did not regulate air fares which were determined by the market, it emphasised "the need to ensure that air fares are not hiked in a sudden and unreasonable manner".

Pointing out that the DGCA had set up a Tariff Analysis Unit to monitor air fares on a regular basis, the Committee said it was "dissatisfied with the current state of affairs despite several powers already available to the government".

The parliamentary panel asked the DGCA and the Civil Aviation Economic Regulatory Council (CAERC) to monitor the air fare graph "with clarity", find out measures to ensure proper compliance of the directives issued to the airlines and "prevent harassment of the consumers".

It said it had observed that the ten orders passed by the CAERC in the past one year related only to the User Development Fee and fuel charges and not air fares. "As the DGCA has reportedly set up a Working Group to protect consumer interests in 2010, the Committee would only hope that the two regulatory set-ups work in sync so that their respective recommendations complement each other."

The panel also wanted to be apprised of any "concrete proposals" by the CAERC in the last one year on air fares.

Since 2009 when DGCA strengthened the provisions under the 1937 Aircraft Rules, the aviation regulator has been directing all Indian carriers regularly to show route-wise and date-wise airfares on their websites and ensure transparency so that flyers do not feel cheated by high ticket prices.

The airlines have been asked to upload the route-wise tariff across its network in various fare categories commensurate with date of purchase on their respective websites, apart from giving details of fees, taxes and other charges.

Under these directives the airlines would have to not only provide details of route-wise fares but also detail them for each `fare bucket`. Aircraft seats are grouped into different categories, each at a distinct price. These categories are referred to as `fare buckets`.

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