Rein in airlines charging exorbitant airfares

Published On: October 19, 2023 07:45 AM NPT By: Republica  | @RepublicaNepal

As the vibrant festival of Dashain approaches, marking a time for family reunions and celebrations, the issue of exorbitant airfares for domestic travel emerges as a pressing concern. The recent surge in airfares for flights between Kathmandu and Dhangadhi has created significant distress among passengers who aspire to return home and partake in the festivities. The staggering increase of Rs 17,000 per passenger is now one of the highest in domestic flights within the country. Astonishingly, airfares for flights between Kathmandu and New Delhi are actually lower than the inflated domestic airfare, which has skyrocketed from approximately Rs 7,000 to an astounding Rs 17,000 by private airline companies. It is deeply regrettable that the civil aviation regulatory body has failed to take decisive action against airlines engaged in extorting exorbitant airfares in such a proportion, thereby burdening passengers who seek to celebrate this significant festival with their loved ones. Airlines, as corporate entities, have a social responsibility towards the people they serve, and it is unjust to exploit passengers planning to visit their homes during this auspicious occasion.

Not surprisingly, the unjustifiable escalation in airfares has been met with outcry and concern from passengers. Distressed passengers have rightly highlighted the lack of intervention by government agencies, despite airlines unilaterally hiking fares during this festive period. They underscored the glaring disparity in airfares, stating that the airfare from Kathmandu to New Delhi is actually less than the airfare between Kathmandu and Dhangadhi. Setting such a high fare for domestic travel is causing distress to passengers with urgent travel needs. With the festival season already upon us, passengers are finding it increasingly challenging to secure bus tickets to reach their desired destinations due to the surge in airfares, thereby limiting their travel options. Concerned officials try to justify the fare, arguing that the airline companies are currently charging the maximum fare in line with the pricing rate approved by the Ministry of Culture, Tourism, and Civil Aviation. However, this explanation does little to alleviate the concerns of passengers grappling with exorbitant fares. It is essential to question whether this pricing rate truly aligns with the economic realities and needs of the people, particularly during festive seasons when travel is more frequent.

Presently, airfares for the Kathmandu-Dhangadhi route range from Rs 14,701 to Rs 17,186, while the lowest fare for Dhangadhi to Kathmandu flights stands at NPR 7,900. Adding to the burden, passengers are now subjected to value-added tax (VAT) on their air tickets, a new imposition since the month of Shrawan. Additionally, over the past few months, an airport service fee per passenger has been fixed at Rs 400 in Kathmandu and Rs 500 in Dhangadhi. Two private sector airlines, Buddha Air and Shree Airlines, currently offer daily air services on the Kathmandu-Dhangadhi route. Summit Air, another private sector airline, has also introduced air services on several routes. However, despite the presence of multiple airlines, the airfares remain unreasonably high, making it challenging for the average person to afford air travel during this crucial festival time. In light of these concerns, it is imperative for the civil aviation regulatory body to intervene and ensure that airlines exercise social responsibility by providing affordable airfares, especially during the festive season. Airlines should also prioritize the welfare of their passengers over excessive profits, and they should consider increasing flight frequency and providing relief to passengers by offering reasonable fares. This will not only benefit the people but also uphold the spirit of harmony and togetherness that defines Dashain, a festival that unites us all across the country.

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