Tuesday, October 20, 2020

Parliamentary panel flags ‘exorbitant’ fares charged for Vande Bharat flights



New Delhi: Members of the Parliamentary panel on External Affairs criticised the “exorbitant prices” for flight tickets under the Vande Bharat Mission. Union Civil Aviation Ministry Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola assured that the Centre will immediately intervene in the matter.

Sources in the panel told BusinessLine that it is likely to recommend the Centre to request the airlines not to charge cancellation fees, return the full amount of cancelled tickets and not to price return ticket for non-resident Indians exorbitantly.

The discussion took place on Monday while the members were taking evidence from the officials of the Ministries of External Affairs, Health and Family Welfare and Civil Aviation on the subject ‘Covid-19 Pandemic-Global Response, India’s Contribution and the way forward’. The panel met on Tuesday too to hear the views of the Ministries of External Affairs, Finance (Department of Economic Affairs), Law and Justice (Department of Legal Affairs and Legislative Department) and Commerce and Industry (Department of Commerce) on the subject ‘India and Bilateral Investment Treaties’.

Sources said both discussions are at the initial stage and none of the members raised objections when Opposition MP NK Premachandran raised the issue of exorbitant ticket charges under Vande Bharat Mission.

“It is an issue of people. Flight carriers are charging six-to-eight times more from hapless NRIs who are returning to India. Most of them are low and middle income group workers from West Asian countries,” a member said. He alleged that the airline companies hiked the prices further as the festival season began in India. “We have demanded immediate intervention of the Centre and Kharola has agreed to our suggestion,’’ the member said.

The members also urged the Centre to ensure that the airlines abide by the Supreme Court order that tickets which were booked and not used during the lockdown should be refunded fully. “Some passengers have got not even 30 per cent of the amount. We have asked the Ministry to ensure that passengers are paid their dues,” another member said.

Kharola told the panel that the Centre signed agreements with 17 countries to bring back Indians stuck abroad during the pandemic.

20/10/20 AM Jigeesh/Business Line

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