Soaring air fares in flood-hit Bengal

Banking on distress?


August 23, 2017

/ By / Kolkata

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The floods have left North Bengal devastated and claimed several lives

The floods have left North Bengal devastated and claimed several lives

The air fares to the flood affected parts of North Bengal and bordering Bihar are seeing an all time high amidst a disaster that has left it disconnected and inaccessible via the railways or roadways, making the bag heavy for the airline companies.

Heavy downpour coupled with spate in the rivers mainly originating in the mountains have flooded North Bengal causing severe damages. The districts of Malda, North Dinajpur, South Dinajpur, Jalpaiguri, Alipurduar and Cooch Behar are badly affected in the flood.

Cashing in on the heavy demand for airways as a preferred mode due to the disruption in railway lines submerged under water, the companies are quoting a high price for an ‘invaluable’ seat.

A Vistara seat will cost you INR 32,819 from Siliguri to Kolkata while Jet Airways is charging INR 21,660.

The major rail lines in the meanwhile are still being repaired as the flood is making it increasingly difficult to do it at one go.


Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee visited flood-hit North Bengal to meet the victims

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee visited flood-hit North Bengal to meet the victims

The question being raised here is that, is there no mechanism by means of which this can be controlled with tickets crossing the INR 3,000 threshold for such a short trip?

An official from a commercial Indian airline stated, “Here, what we are seeing is that while going from say Kolkata to Siliguri, the number of passengers are limited. However, while the flight returns from Siliguri to Kolkata there is a high demand and thus to maintain this disparity in demand, it’s a commercial prospect to hike the fares to maintain the breakeven.”

Talking about hike in fares, Debjit Dutta, Chairperson of IATO (Indian Association of Tour Operators), West Bengal chapter said, ” It is a prevalent practice globally to follow a dynamic fair structure where the pricing depends on the demand and supply. Most hotels and airline companies are following this structure presently. Now coming back to the situation in Bengal, depending on the number of flights operating and the demand the pricing is being determined.”

Is this ethical?

“Whether a fair pricing structure should be utilised during a natural calamity is a matter of debate. However if the upper limit is getting out of hand so much that the affected people are being unable to access the airlines or avail a hotel then it should be taken up by the concerned government,” added Dutta.

Meanwhile, the government maintains that they have asked the airlines to increase the frequency to meet the demands. “Some private buses are assuring passengers that they will drive them to Kolkata. They are overcharging as well. I have asked the district administration to keep a strict tab on the situation,” stated West Bengal Tourism Minister Gautam Deb.

The flood has claimed 32 lives with the number rising everyday while, 1,461,453 people have already been affected by it.

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