The government of India has expressed its inability to act on the Jammu and Kashmir government’s request for regulating the high and rising airfares for travel to and from the state, stating these were determined by the market logic of demand and supply.
After repeated pleas by the state government for keeping airfares on the sector in check, particularly during peak tourist seasons in Kashmir, a communiqué by the union civil aviation ministry has stated that the airfares cannot be regulated by the central government.
“The pricing of air tickets is decided by each airline based on market dynamics and managed through their inventory management process. Airlines offer fares at various levels, which are driven by market forces. The airfares increase with the increase in demand as the lower fare buckets get sold out first,” the communiqué states.
“This is a global practice followed in the airline industry. Airlines are free to fix reasonable tariffs under the provision of sub-rule (1) of Rule 135, aircraft rules 1937 having regard to all relevant factors, including the cost of operation, characteristics of service, reasonable profit and the generally prevailing traffic.”
The civil aviation ministry communiqué to the state government says the airlines remain compliant with the regulatory provisions as long as the fare charged by them does not exceed the fare established and displayed on their website.“The airline operators themselves take decision with regard to increase in frequency depending upon commercial viability of routes and availability of resources”.
The state government and higher officials after interactions with tourism stakeholders had taken the issue of high airfare with the civil aviation ministry.The state government has been pursuing the matter for getting the airfares of carriers operating in Jammu and Srinagar sectors regulated to bring price-stability and controlling the cost of air travel within reasonable limits.
The airfares in the Delhi-Srinagar sector are among the highest in India and fares increase further when the Srinagar-Jammu highway remains closed due to inclement weather.Being landlocked people in Kashmir have no option at that time other than to pay hefty fares for travelling out.
Tourism in Kashmir is witnessing a decline. In 2018, only 8.5 lakh tourists visited Kashmir which is far less than the last few years. A major factor attributed by tourism players is high airfares making travel package to Kashmir costlier than even Dubai packages.