The loot in air

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It is usually the price in petroleum that determines the cost of air tickets. But in Kashmir the rise and fall of air tickets is subject to weather conditions. Airline companies are making the most of the ongoing bad weather condition in Kashmir by charging exorbitant airfare six to seven times more than the actual prices from the flyers. With Jammu-Srinagar highway remaining blocked for traffic due to landslides at several places, the demon of arbitrary fares is back to haunt and fleece the stranded people in Jammu. It is highly shameful on the part of airline operators that they misuse the weather conditions in Kashmir to their advantage without caring about the degree of burden and miseries it brings to the local residents. In normal days, the air fare between Jammu and Srinagar rolls between Rs.2600 and Rs.3200. But it goes up six to seven times once the Jammu-Srinagar highway gets blocked due to bad weather. Last week, when the highway got closed due to landslides on many parts of the only road link, the air line operators increased the air ticket (from Jammu to Srinagar) to Rs.10000 to 15000. It is cheaper to travel to some foreign countries than from Jammu to Srinagar. A look out at international fares reveals that traveling from Delhi to Dubai is cheaper by almost 2000 than traveling from Jammu to Srinagar. The air tickets to other Asian countries is even less. Thousands of people from Srinagar are presently stranded in Jammu as the highway is not fully through for traffic. They cannot dream of traveling by air as the airline operators have increased air tickets to a swooping high. The airline companies appear to be accountable no none. They are law unto themselves. Nobody is questioning them for the wrongs they do with the passengers. Ironically, the government is also mum over their outrageous conduct. It is all the more necessary for making these airline operators answerable. The state government should take up the matter with civil aviation ministry and other authorities who have control over these companies to fix cap on air fare. Chief Minister Mahbooba Mufti shares a good chemistry with the Prime Minister and Home Minister. She could use her good offices and take up the issue with them. She could do a great service to herself and her party to get the airfare regulated by the concerned companies. Her popularity graph has taken a downslide following the past year’s unrest. It is time for her to act and reassure the state people that she keeps peoples interest supreme. The state assembly, which claims to represent the people of the state, should debate and discuss the issue and call the airline operators to explain their anti-Kashmir conduct in the House. Steep hike in airfares has raised serious concern in Kashmir’s tourism industry as well, with stakeholders accusing the airliners of deliberately trying to make Kashmir the costliest and least preferred destination to cut out tourist inflow. This has now become a pattern with the airliners that at the inception of every tourism season in Kashmir they unilaterally and arbitrarily increase the fares on this sector making Kashmir packages unaffordable. Ironically, the airfares for other destinations both within and outside the country are much cheaper as compared to Kashmir. The hikes have affected not only our tourism sector these have also hit students and patients who have to travel outside the state not for luxury but because of necessity. It is all the more necessary for making these airline operators answerable. The state government should take up the matter with civil aviation ministry and other authorities who have control over these companies to fix cap on air fare. This would not only stop them from fleecing the common passengers but would also encourage competition among airline companies to provide better facilities for the passengers.

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