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  India   Chennai Flood: Air fares hit roof during crisis

Chennai Flood: Air fares hit roof during crisis

Published : Dec 12, 2015, 5:15 am IST
Updated : Dec 12, 2015, 5:15 am IST

On the one hand as corporates and good samaritans across the city helped each other during the massive floods in the city, domestic airlines chose the other way round to fleece passengers at will.

On the one hand as corporates and good samaritans across the city helped each other during the massive floods in the city, domestic airlines chose the other way round to fleece passengers at will.

As several people across the city looked to make their way out during the floods from nearby operational airports, (like Bengaluru) domestic airlines made use of this period to raise their fares to abysmally high levels and fleece passengers.

 

Last minute flight fares from Bengaluru to Delhi during the flood crisis skyrocketed to nearly Rs 50,000 for one way and Bengaluru to Mumbai, which usually hovers around Rs 4,000 to 6,000 in economy shot up to Rs 19,000, excluding taxes.

Even business class tickets were sold at double the normal prices. Towards the end of the crisis situation, when the circumstances were on the verge of returning to normalcy, one way tickets (economy) were still being sold as high as Rs 28,269 ( Spice jet) and Rs 20,000 (Jet) Rs 21,081 (Go Air).

“This is the first time I have seen such a thing happen. They have exploited a situation caused by natural disaster and tried to make profits. Goons exploit like this, not decent businessmen. What they have done is totally unjustifiable and this attitude needs a change,” said Mr Sudhakar Reddy, president, Air Passengers Association of India. He will be going to Delhi on Monday for a meet on this matter.

 

Mr Anupam Anand, a corporate, who managed his way out from Chennai on the night of December 4 and went to Bengaluru to fly to New Delhi, recalled his experience where he had to shell out nearly Rs 22,000 to buy a ticket. “I was standing in a queue of 15 people which included students and the elderly but was surprised to see them move out quickly. When my turn came, I was told to pay Rs 22,000. I too was shocked as to how a ticket usually around Rs 5,000 to 7,000 could cost so much. However, I did manage to pay by my company’s card.” It was quite a sorry sight, he added.

It was quite a sorry sight, Anand added. “ I had my card so I could afford it, but how could students and elderly people with minimal resources buy .This is appalling.”

 

With so many people waiting to buy tickets, Anand did inquire with officials as to why there was a fare increase of nearly five to six times during such a situation. But he could not get a reply. However, the situation got further complicated, when in mid-air, Anand noticed that more than half the seats were empty.

When DC contacted Spice Jet on the matter of price rise, an official said, “ It depends entirely on the situation. Anand was among the last few passengers to book a ticket on the particular flight. So, he was in the highest price bracket. As the dates get nearer, the prices do keep rising and once the lower price bracket reaches it limit, then we have to put the passengers in the next higher bracket.”

 

However, when prices on a normal weekend for December 12 ( Saturday) were looked up on the travel website - ‘make my trip’ a day before, the last two seats were being sold for Rs 7,004 ( nearly three to four times less than those sold during the floods)

When asked as to what could be done about these brackets so that those in need do not suffer at the time of crisis, “ Maybe the DGCA will look into it and can bring an amendment”.

Meanwhile, regarding the matter of empty seats it is said a group booking of more than 50 persons was made and they did not turn up which is why the seats were left empty. “ Their tickets could not be passed on to other passengers since there is no provision for that. “ the official added. It might be recalled here that in another incident a few days back a British citizen was stuck in Chennai after her flight to London was cancelled and she was not intimated about it. She was then put on a flight from Hyderabad to London. However, she could not afford to buy a ticket to Hyderabad from Chennai on Spice Jet the next morning as it was being sold at as high as 14,000. When asked about this, the official had an apology to offer and said, “ Maybe she could have been accommodated and I am really sorry that such an incident happened. “

 

Earlier, a DGCA official commented that setting prices is completely in the hands of the airlines, but the approval is given by DGCA. “They have fare buckets and they raise it, so what can we do ” the official said adding that they do get several complaints on this issue.