Aviation minister Praful Patel plans a congestion fine for airlines causing delays

The aviation ministry is planning to conduct a countrywide study of the on-time performance of airlines and "habitual offenders" will be fined, says union civil aviation minister Praful Patel.

Interestingly, the minister has consistently opposed the congestion surcharge of Rs150 imposed by airlines on passengers. He has called his proposed penalty a "congestion fine".

Airlines are allotted slots based on the runway and aircraft handling capacity of different airports. If an airline is unable to operate its flight on time, it will reach the destination airport at a time slotted for another aircraft and delay many more flights, Patel said.

The civil aviation ministry recently did a weeklong study at the New Delhi and Mumbai airports on the 6 am to 8 am slots. These being the morning's first flights, the planes are parked and just have to leave on time. However, officials did not disclose their findings.

Later this month, aviation secretary Ashok Chawla has called a meeting of all domestic airline CEOs. He will ask the airlines to jointly set up an industry regulator on the lines of the Institute of Chartered Accountants or Engineers India.

The airport economic regulator proposed by the ministry covers airports, but not airlines. The government wants the airline industry to have a self regulating mechanism.

Ministry officials said the government is also planning to tackle a big problem that domestic fliers face; refunds for cancelled tickets. Meanwhile, the group of ministers' (GoM's) meeting on the new aviation policy is fixed on 1 November. It will take up the issue of relaxing norms for airlines to fly abroad.