NEW DELHI: Members in the Rajya Sabha today sought a cap on airfares and sought to know why charges were levied by airlines on booking preferential seats in a flight.
Raising the issue during Question Hour, Congress leader Chhaya Verma said that she had taken an Indigo flight on June 29 from Delhi to Raipur, and the staff did not upgrade her to the front rows, despite there being vacant seats.
Instead, the airline announced that the vacant seats in the front row are available for an additional charge of Rs 600, she said and asked why comfortable seats were kept vacant if there were no passengers.
Chairman M Venkaiah Naidu termed it as a "serious issue" and asked the government to probe the matter.
"The MP has shared her experience. What happened in this case, probe that. Was there any discrimination? Please enquire," Naidu told the government.
Observing that preferential seats gave "a feeling of discrimination", DMK leader Tiruchi Siva said "Can you do way with this and adopt first-come, first-serve?"
On the issue of substantial hike in airfares close to departure, he said, "At the time of departure of flight, the fares are increased by 400 per cent. You can allow them to increase fares as per the demand, but not abnormally. Fix a ceiling at least. People who are in a hurry and distress, face a lot of problem."
Responding to the members' queries, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha said "the fares have been deregulated. Flight services are provided based on the terms of conditions entered in a commercial contract between a passenger and airline."
However, the government has asked the airlines to maintain transparency and non-discrimination. The minister said national carrier Air India was also selling aisle and window seats at higher rates.
"This is a commercial practice. It is done across the globe. If we have to run properly, then we have to practice this. Middle seat is given at lower rate," Sinha said.
If someone wants comfort, it is up to the passenger to take an aisle, window or a business class seat.
"We have unbundled the middle seat to make it affordable," he said.
The Minister claimed that the "airfares in India are the lowest in the world and more affordable if you buy tickets three months prior".