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Kerala Pravasi Association moves SC over steep airfare challenges for Gulf travelers

The Kerala Pravasi Association (KPA) has taken a significant step by filing a petition in the Supreme Court, to address the exorbitant air travel fares to and from the Gulf, a pressing concern for NRIs.

The petition was filed challenging Rule-135 of the Indian Aviation Act, which empowers airlines to fix ticket prices.

The petition seeks a reduction in airfares and the establishment of a cap on these fares, asserting that the existing Rule-135 of the Indian Aviation Act, grants airlines unchecked authority to determine ticket prices. This action has been taken in response to what the KPA perceives as unjust exploitation of Indian travelers through exorbitant fare hikes by airlines, creating a violation of the citizen’s right to travel.

Every air transport undertaking is expected to operate in accordance with sub-rules (1) and (2) of rule 134, which establish the tariff by considering all factors including the cost of operation and the characteristics of the service.

But a lack of clear guidelines or transparency in the tariff fixation process has allowed airlines to raise fares without restraint and unfair exploitation of the vulnerable diaspora. Consequently, both international and domestic fares have surged, with international fares increasing by 40% and domestic fares by 20%. The Gulf region witnesses the highest fare hikes during holiday seasons, between June to September, with airlines citing escalating fuel prices as the rationale.

Price hikes in popular sectors like Dubai – Kochi, and Thiruvananthapuram, reached exorbitant levels, leaving passengers with limited options. The airlines’ exorbitant rates touched Rs 1,04,738 for flights to Kochi and up to Rs 2,45,829 for flights to Thiruvananthapuram. This rate is expected to continue till the end of September.

The Kerala Pravasi Association says that the government has failed to take necessary actions to curb the anti-consumer practices of airline companies, leaving expatriates with no choice but to pay Rs 40,000 to Rs 1.5 lakh for tickets that were previously available for Rs 7,000.

The petition also references the government’s previous intervention in setting fare caps for domestic flights based on flight duration. Currently, the rule states that flights of less than 40 minutes’ duration cannot be charged above Rs 2,900 (excluding GST) and above Rs 8,800 (excluding GST) per passenger.

The petition highlights the need for a similar regulatory approach for international fares. Kerala Pravasi Associatio is advocating for necessary amendments to the aircraft rules, to establish minimum and maximum fare limits for airlines, providing much-needed relief to travelers.

The Kerala Pravasi Association had also filed a petition in the Delhi High Court and have reached out to Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia and the Director General of Civil Aviation, expressing their concerns about uncontrollable fare increases following a directive from the Delhi High Court. This demonstrates their determination to seek a resolution to the ongoing issue.

The petition was filed on behalf of the association by Chairman Rajendran Vellapalath and President, Aswani Nambarambath.