Air Ticketing: When Prices Reached the Sky

by admin on June 15, 2012

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Some time back, due to cut throat competition between online travel agents offering lowest air fares took a new twist. Some elements in the travel agency wanting to make a fast buck created system whereby travelers browsing for the lowest fare were in for shock. The time taken for browsing to actual booking (a matter of 2 minutes) the fare went up to almost double. According to a Hindustan Times report on its June 10, 2012 edition, a group of four people booked a flight from Delhi to Pune on June 8 when the lowest fare on display was Rs. 9,026 per person on make mytrip.com, totaling Rs36, 104. As soon they clicked the book button, the price jumped to Rs.60, 452 – an increase of more than Rs, 24,000 or by a hefty 66%! In a similar incident tickets for four, on Delhi to Ahmedabad had shot up by Rs.2500 from Rs 34,836 to Rs 37, 353 while Delhi – Cochin air tickets by yatra .com increased by increased by Rs.2000. This caused immense problems, especially for the middle class.

Consumer rights activists dubbed this as an unfair practice as it lures customers at a lower price, and then increases the price, just before transaction is completed. Travel portals counter argued that information is relayed through a central reservation which offers tickets for several airlines and changes every 8- 10 minutes due to changes in demand and supply. Travel portals like Yatra.com say that they are fed information by the central reservation system (offering tickets of several member airlines), which changes every 8-10 minutes due to changes in demand and supply, especially during peak season. Other portals like MakeMytrip state that their software is designed to show the lowest available fares –once the passenger selects the flight, the website connects to the airline to book tickets at the best rates. Using legalese by passing the buck to others may not always work as Justice JD Kapoor, former president of the Delhi State Consumer Redressal Commission has clearly mentioned “This is an unfair trade practice and is an offence under the Consumer Protection Act.”

Unfair Air ticketing

Unfair Air ticketing

However, the report cites many authorities concerned have given evasive answers, “We will look into this,” said a senior official of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, India’s aviation sector regulator, adding: “Though travel portals are not bound by our regulations, we can ask airlines to withdraw inventory (in this case, unfairly tickets priced). Some experts have cited that this is a grey area. Ashok Chawla, chairperson of the Competition Commission of India, which is empowered to clamp down on firms that abuse their market dominance to overcharge customers, said: “The issue has not come to CCI and it does not seem to come under our ambit though the issue is linked to the consumer. Consumer forums should look into the matter.” Thus, passing the buck or playing the blame game had become a routine affair, leaving the consumers in distress, as there was no person to turn to redress the matter.

However, good sense prevailed and things are getting back to normal and the portals realized that this policy was devoid of business sense and ethics. Agents realized that this would be catastrophic for the image of their travel portal within a short span of time. Our advice to travelers is to read the fine print very carefully before signing on the dotted line.

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