Airline discount schemes a fraud, passenger body tells DGCA

The massive discounts periodically offered by India's budget airlines are little more than a marketing fraud, according to the Air Passengers Association of India (APAI).

The leading air travellers' body has written to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) complaining that such schemes, under which air tickets are available at unbelievable discounts for limited periods, don't even exist.

No would-be passenger is likely to get tickets at these rates, usually under Rs900, the APAI said, asking the DGCA to ban such schemes.

The APAI said on Sunday that it monitored the schemes offered by three leading domestic carriers - IndiGo, SpiceJet, and Jet Airways/Jet Konnect - which had on Wednesday announced special fares for travel between 1 November and 15 December.

The airlines offered one-way tickets priced between Rs899 and Rs1,799 on a few sectors provided they were booked between 22 October and 26 October.

 The APAI said that it deputed three of its staffers to try and book the tickets, not just through the airlines' websites but also travel portals. "All we got was a 'sold out' response," APAI president D Sudhakara Reddy said.

The association has challenged the airlines to make public the seats that have been sold at discounted rates.

"The DGCA must put an end to this practice of offering ridiculously low fares which are non-existent and are not really available to the passenger," Reddy said in his communication to the aviation regulatory body chief Prabhat Kumar.

Reddy said that the association was "forced to draw the DGCA's attention to the issue following several complaints from passengers". The association has said that several passengers have complained that they have been unable to access the airlines' websites after such discounts have been announced.

"In most cases, flyers don't get access to the airlines' portals. And if they do, the advertised special fare section always shows 'sold out'. Most of the time, all airlines' schemes are similar and the fares announced are also similar. How can this happen unless a cartel is working to fool the public?" Reddy asked.