It has been a long-standing issue of higher air travel charges in the Gulf sector. May I take this opportunity to draw your attention to some of the facts.
It is a fact that Indians working in the Arabian Gulf are forced to pay comparatively higher charges on air passage. Even the airlines and Govt. of India will admit that fact, at least unofficially!?
I don’t want to quote the statistics here, as most of us know about this very well from time to time. Why Gulf NRIs are paying such higher cost for the same distance of travel? Actually international air travel charges are as per IATA norms and almost all airlines to India are members of IATA. Hence the charges must be uniform. However, passengers in this sector always paying higher tariffs. How come it? Even though IATA rates are there in every sector, most airlines charge less than that thru discounts or offers round the year and hence their charges are always less. Whereas those airlines who do not offer such huge discounts, their tickets are always high and the poor Gulf NRIs fall into this. From the airlines’ point of view, they may be correct, because they are following IATA rules and hence cannot be blamed of!! IATA does not restrict them either to offer or not those discounts.
That’s all about the listed ticket fare. In addition to that most of the passengers are bound to pay various taxes imposed by then government. Also surcharges, users fee (‘useless fee’, I rename it), etc on top of standard ticket fare.
The airlines in India are nationalized, especially international airline. As we know, for years and decades these national carriers (assumed to be the pride of nation) are loss-making units of Indian industry. India government (may I call the “businessman”, at least in the case of these airlines) is no longer willing to undertake more losses in such units, especially in the modern era of globalization and privatization.
Any businessman/investor will look at higher profits and reduced costs always. Private airlines earn their reputation through prompt service and reduced fares and seasonal offers, deviating from the standard rated approved internationally (by IATA)
Al of us know that India-Gulf sector is not a tourism line, but mostly of Indians employed abroad who get a rare chance of visiting their families, may be once in several years! Whatever be our custom and changes in lifestyle, our family values and relationships, we Indians cannot set aside at least for another generation. In fact, these family relationships may be behind our success, wherever we are on this planet. Hence no Indians abroad will spare his chance of visiting their homeland, whatever be the cost. This is the soft-corner where our national air carriers take advantage of. Some routes and airports are entirely dedicated to national airlines and hence they are the monopolists.
As an Individual I would prefer to get boarded/landed at nearby airport, rather than distant airports and then from there take another service [domestic/train/road], especially with handful of luggage. Your worries get multiplied, when you are traveling with family and you have the only option of it during summer vacations! All these make up the monopolist airlines to take advantage of your situation and you are bound to their demands. At the end, you board the flight next to your hometown and forced to pay whatever be the cost in exchange of convenience and hassle-free trip.
What happens to our requests to reduce the airfares or make it in parallel to similar distant international locations?
As mentioned earlier, governments are no more willing to bear the burden of losses and hence airlines have to find their own means to increase profitability. At the same time, privatization of these airlines may affect nation’s pride. Moreover, the official (or ‘unofficial’) free travel facilities availed by government officials and their superiors and others (politicians) will seriously get affected, if those national airlines are moved to private hands. In such a situation, do they press for privatization? I don’t think, at least for the near future. In turn, our national pride airlines keep on penalizing innocent passengers who spend 12 to 15 hours a day in the Arabian deserts!
Interestingly, Indian national air carriers have the highest ratio of employee per flight compared to other airlines in the world! At the same time there seems to be no plans to reduce the workforce and in turn the losses they accumulate each year. Never in the history nor in the near future it seems. So who will bear all these costs? Poor passengers, can they escape from this, at the current setup?
Those who control/manage these airlines know how to mislead the passengers from time to time, as long as the travelers do not turn up as a single force. What happens to our memorandums and complaints regarding the discrimination we are facing? Our leaders keep on visiting us, eager to see their brothers and sisters’ burden abroad, and give us golden promises and return safely with handful of gifts and luggage. When they come back in India, their requests also end up in deaf ears.
Those who point out these complaints never get united and it is yet another advantage for the authorities. Or those who come up with strong protests, are silenced from time to time in one way or other or in the return of some peanuts. 20-million strong NRIs all over the world, is never considered to be a single vote bank and that may be another reason behind all of these discrimination.
Quiet recently, we have seen the fate of low-cost passenger ship services and most recently the budget-airlines!! Amidst all these protests and complaints, our airlines are flying higher to keep up our nation’s pride.
We do admit the convenience of landing/boarding at our nearby airports. For that, how long have we to be penalized?
Summer vacation is a nightmare to Gulf Indians. But, for airlines it is their festive season and they are not willing to loose a single penny out of that, by charging the highest fares during the year. They know that their current fleet is not enough to cope up with sudden rush of travelers. However, they will not allow other airlines’ assistance, at least during those hard times of Indian air passengers. Because they are our nation’s pride and they want to serve us, even though we are severely punished!!?
At the end, who will tie the bell to cat? The airlines themselves, their authorities, our India government, or we hapless end-users?