Kerala floods: Aviation Minister Prabhu asks airlines to charge reasonably

Union Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu has advised scheduled domestic airlines to ensure that airfares for flights to and from Kerala airports and nearby destinations in other states are kept at optimal level. The development comes after Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan alleged that carriers are charging excess amount from Kerala-based passengers headed to the Gulf. Cochin Airport has been shut due to the ongoing heavy rains and locals are travelling to neighbouring airports in other states to take flights to Gulf countries.

In his social media account, Prabhu said, “Scheduled domestic airlines also been advised to ensure that airfares for flights to/from Trivandrum (Kerala Capital Thiruvananthapuram) and Calicut airports in Kerala and nearby airports i.e. Mangalore and Coimbatore are kept at optimal levels proportionate to sector distance.”

He added that airlines advised to cap maximum fare around Rs 10,000 on longer routes and around Rs 8,000 on shorter routes between Kerala and nearby airports. DGCA is constantly monitoring airfares on 32 direct routes operating to/from Thiruvananthapuram, Calicut, Coimbatore and Mangalore.

Kerala CM Vijayan said that he had spoken to Prabhu on this issue and that the Union Minister had assured him that he would put an end to the airlines' practice of charging excess amount from the passengers from Kerala to the Gulf, in the backdrop of suspension of operations at Cochin.

Cochin Airport suspended operations on the morning of August 15, as water released from the dams flooded the Periyar river and inundated the airport located nearby. With the water shed attaining a level of around five feet, the authorities announced that operations would be suspended till August 26. 

Various domestic and foreign airlines shifted services to and from Kochi to the airports at Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram. Some foreign airlines has also cancelled a few flights to Kochi for a few days. According to the Ministry of Civil Aviation announcement on Friday, out of 71 arrivals and 74 departures of scheduled domestic airlines to and from Kochi, 23 arrival and 24 departures were rescheduled and additional 19 arrivals/departures were transferred to Thiruvananthapuram, Kozhikode, Coimbatore airports. Nine foreign carriers operating in Kochi have also rescheduled their flights to and from Thiruvananthapuram.

Thousands of Keralites travel to Gulf countries for work.

"...DGCA is constantly monitoring airfares on 32 direct routes operating to and from Trivandrum, Calicut, Coimbatore and Mangalore. Spikes in airfare on a few routes have been observed. Concerned airlines have been advised to cap the airfare on these flights. DGCA has also convened a meeting with higher management of domestic airlines today in this regard," said the Ministry on Friday.

Air India has announced the rescheduling of various flights from Kochi to Thiruvananthapuram on August 18, 19 and 20. 

SpiceJet on Friday said that due to runway closure at Kochi (COK), it has opened additional flights between August 20 and August 24 from Male and Thiruvananthapuram. Indigo said it would provide cancellation and rescheduling waiver to passengers booked to travel from August 16, 2018 to August 26, 2018.