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Fare play: Government caps flight ticket prices for three months

The fare structure was released by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Thursday evening, starting at a minimum of Rs 2,000 for short durations and going to an upper limit of Rs 18,600 for the longest flights. While these fare regulations will be in force until August 24, they may be withdrawn before that if the pricing situation is conducive to such a move.

ET Bureau|
Last Updated: May 22, 2020, 08.17 AM IST
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NEW DELHI: The government will set a limit on air fares for three months until the end of August to ensure that passengers are not overcharged as flights resume on Monday after having been suspended for two months due to the lockdown. However, Maharashtra hasn’t taken a decision on quarantine-related matters, which will be critical for flights between Delhi and Mumbai, normally the busiest aviation corridor in India.

“We have decided on limiting fares based on flight duration,” aviation minister Hardeep Singh Puri announced at a press conference on Thursday. “We have set seven fare categories under flight durations that start from flights up to 40 minutes till 210 minutes.”

The fare structure was released by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Thursday evening, starting at a minimum of Rs 2,000 for short durations and going to an upper limit of Rs 18,600 for the longest flights. While these fare regulations will be in force until August 24, they may be withdrawn before that if the pricing situation is conducive to such a move.

It’s not clear if states will ask passengers to be quarantined upon arrival and what form that may take. Puri said the idea was to ensure that those who fly don’t have Covid-19.

Maharashtra’s concerns
“If I am quarantined for 14 days during a one-day to Kerala and quarantined again upon my return to Delhi, I would never make such a trip,” the aviation minister told reporters. “We are taking all protective measures to ensure that no corona-infected passenger travels in these flights.”

Maharashtra government officials told ET they had communicated to the Centre that any decision to allow flights needs to be taken in consultation with states.

“We already are struggling with a huge number of cases in Mumbai, Pune and other parts of the state,” said one of them. “If we allow flights, then we need to figure out quarantine facilities for the passengers. We also have concerns, for example, if people fly in from states like Gujarat, where there are a high number of cases.”

The state is already under pressure to identify quarantine facilities for people expected to contract the infection and allowing domestic flights will add to this load. Maharashtra is waiting to see what other states decide before taking a stand, the sources said.

Karnataka may do away with quarantining norms for inter-state travelers once domestic flights resume on Monday. Hinting at easing restrictions, Karnataka medical education minister K Sudhakar said quarantining will be a huge challenge when thousands of people enter the state on a daily basis on flights and trains from next week.

The state is likely to release new protocols in two-three days. As of now, about 110,000 people are institutionally quarantined in Karnataka.

This is not the first time that the government has sought to limit fares. It had done so during floods in Kerala and the agitation by Jats that hit road and rail connectivity in Haryana in the past few years.

Aviation secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola said the minimum fare for a Delhi-Mumbai flight ticket will be Rs 3,500 and the maximum Rs 10,000, excluding user development fees, passenger services fees and goods and services tax (GST). The rules mandate that airlines have to sell 40% of their total seats at prices below the median of the upper and lower limit.

“So for a Delhi-Mumbai flight ticket, the median fare comes to about Rs 6,750 and airlines will have to sell a minimum of about 40% of their tickets at fares below the median,” Kharola said.

However, officials added that an airline is free to sell any amount of tickets under any slab, as long as it follows the 40% criterion.

While the government has announced the resumption of flights to all airports, it has mandated airlines to start with at least a third allowed under the summer schedule between metro cities and between metro and non-metro cities.

The government also announced procedures to be followed by passengers while flying. They can either furnish a self-declaration or download the Aarogya Setu contact tracing app and fill in their details before taking flights. IndiGo has said passengers should have the app.

Only web check-in will be allowed initially. Passengers can carry one bag on board and check-in a piece of up to 20 kg.
(Catch all the Business News, Breaking News Events and Latest News Updates on The Economic Times.)

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