Sunday 30 December 2018

INDIA: Parliamentary Panel Criticizes Airlines For Overcharging, Misbehavior, Long Ques, And Poor Food

India’s embattled airlines, reeling under mounting debt and piling losses, have now been called out by the country’s lawmakers for shoddy services.

A parliamentary panel on Dec. 27 criticised aviation firms for overcharging, staff misbehaviour, unsatisfactory check-in, and poor luggage collection services, among other things.

What the passenger wants is a quick check-in, without long queues, and a smooth process of security check. Despite the huge claims of airlines regarding the check-in process, the committee is compelled to observe that the check-in counters are in a mess, especially those of low-cost airlines such as IndiGo, said the parliamentary standing committee on transport, tourism, and culture in a report (pdf) tabled in the Rajya Sabha, the upper house of Indian parliament.

It mentioned incidents of a few private airlines deliberately creating long queues at check-in counters to ensure that passengers miss their flights, and then persuading them to buy exorbitantly priced tickets for the next available ones.

The report recommended that the number of check-in counters and people deployed at the counters must be directly proportional to the number of flights each airline operates from an airport.

However, responding to the panel’s observations, the government indicated it may not be able to do much about it.

Check-in process, check-in counters, and collection of luggage are commercial issues and the government does not interfere with the commercial activities of the airlines.

Further, there is no regulation issued by the aviation regulator, DGCA or directorate general of civil aviation in this regard, the ministry of civil aviation was quoted in the report.

The parliamentary committee had other complaints, too.

It came down heavily on low-cost airlines for providing unsatisfactory food, even when passengers are charged for it. Every airline should maintain the highest quality of food and they should also change the menu occasionally instead of keeping a cold sandwich in their menu throughout the year, the report said.

It noted that since there are no uniform standards for imposing charges for rescheduling, cancellation, and no-show, such levies by airlines are often arbitrary today. Airlines should not charge over 50% of the base fare as cancellation charges, it suggested.

The committee pulled up IndiGo, India’s largest airline by market share, for staff misbehaviour.

Our committee is very clear that the worst performing airline for consumers is IndiGo. They haven’t responded in spite of many complaints. IndiGo even charges for 1-2 kg overweight, this has not been taken very well and the committee is looking into the matter seriously, chairman of the committee, and member of parliament, Derek O’Brien said at a press conference after the report was tabled in parliament.

IndiGo, however, defended itself. We evaluate every complaint/feedback rigorously and develop training modules keeping the customer sentiment in mind, IndiGo responded.

The report comes at a time when most major airlines in the country are trying to cut corners and squeeze the last penny out of their various services, struggling as they are on multiple fronts.

Profitability in the industry has taken a severe beating as companies battle high fuel prices and unfavourable currency exchange rates. Airliners like IndiGo, SpiceJet, and Jet Airways have seen their finances worsen in the past two quarters.

The lawmakers’ criticism is something the industry could have dealt with before, to avoid such critisism.

However, the commitee The Committee is happy to note that the heliport at Rohini has been operationalized.
The Committee is of the view that the helicopter industry has tremendous potential to provide services in the tourism sector, disaster management etc.

The Committee desires that more such heliports may be set up throughout the country. The Committee reiterates its earlier
recommendation that Air India and Pawan Hans can work together to ensure seamless travel on hub and spokes basis- bringing passengers from smaller places to various tourist spots.

The Committee feels that the development of un-served and under-served airports would give a major boost to air connectivity to various small cities and towns.

It will further give a fillip to the economic development in these areas in terms of job creation and infrastructure development.

There should not be any unreasonable restriction on the allocation of fund to the demands of the Ministry of Civil Aviation as the money spent will spur the overall growth of the country especially in view of the Regional Connectivity Scheme UDAN.

The Committee takes note of the initiatives taken under RCS. Air connectivity is the main mode of transport for majority of the population of North East to other parts of the country and these States are demanding overall economic development.

The Committee feels that better air connectivity is the only solution to opening up the economy of North Eastern States. Therefore, the Committee notes that it is very essential to give a preferential treatment to the North Eastern States as far as air connectivity is concerned.

Tourism Observer

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