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Growing surcharges upset air passengers
Prabhjot Singh
Tribune News Service

Chandigarh, September 15
Low and attractive fares to various destinations in South East Asia, Europe and North America advertised by various international carriers notwithstanding, air passengers end up paying 20 to 35 per cent more than the actual basic fare.

Though the air carriers pretend to absorb their losses due to increased cost of aviation fuel in the name of growing international competition by keeping basic fares unchanged, they have been passing on the entire liability on to unsuspecting passengers in the name of surcharges.

For example, a passenger travelling from Delhi to Kuala Lumpur via Bangkok ends up paying equivalent of US $120 (Rs 5640) as fuel surcharge. The same passenger travelling to Los Angeles by the same carrier pays a fuel surcharge of US$ 200 (Rs 9400).

Interestingly, almost all international carriers have been revising upwards these surcharges which are basically on two accounts — fuel and insurance. While insurance surcharge, which is normally US $ 5 per international sector flown, it is fuel surcharge which has been troubling air passengers as well as travel agents.

There is no uniformity in surcharges claimed by various international air carriers. Fuel and insurance surcharge are far less for destinations in South East Asia than Europe or North America. Some of the American carriers charge a minimum of US $ 80 for each flight to or from north America.

A passenger travelling by a British air carrier pays upto Rs 14,500 as surcharges for a flight without break from Delhi to New York. This includes airport taxes of Rs 2300 for the US and Rs 1926 for using Heathrow or Gatwick as transit airports. Of this the major chunk, Rs 9684, is the fuel and insurance surcharge alone. On a basic fare of Rs 46,000, one ends up paying Rs 14,500 as surcharge and taxes.

Air Canada appears to be the cheapest as for a direct flight from Delhi to Toronto, it charges only Rs 4600 as surcharges and taxes against Rs 9900 charged by Air India for the same sector.

“The air fares as advertised are misleading and are perhaps in violation of the MRTP Act. Airlines do mention that taxes are extra but keep quiet on surcharges,” says a travel agent revealing that “no commission is paid to us on the surcharges collected from passengers. It is a novel way of offsetting cost of increase in fuel prices as well as increased rates of insurance for air travel following the terrorist attack on the US some years ago.”

An air ticket to any destination in North America which was available for Rs 42,000 (inclusive of all taxes) before 9/11 is now sold for Rs 56,000. This is in spite of the fact that there has been little or no change in the basic economy class fare which varies between Rs 38,200 and Rs 46,200 depending upon the destination.

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