The Supreme Court on Wednesday said no airline could charge a fee apart from its displayed fare, under whatever name, till the appellate authority under the Airports Economic Regulatory Act passes an order on this and other related issues.
A bench of judges D K Jain and Madan Lokur clarified they’d not gone into the merits of the various issues regarding the components of fares charged from passengers and it was for the appellate authority to decide these.
There is also a petition before the high court here, challenging a December 17 circular of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) allowing the collection of such charges. According to the petition, DGCA has no jurisdiction to charge any transaction fee. The SC has expressed no opinion on the issues in this case.
The SC was hearing a petition filed by a T G N Kumar from Kerala, who complained against airlines collecting user development fees from passengers. During the earlier hearings, the judges expanded the scope of the case and had observed that airlines cannot exploit passengers by charging them under various heads. They had asked the Federation of Indian Airlines, the DGCA, Delhi International Airport Ltd and Mumbai International Airport Ltd to explain these extra charges over and above the base fares. The defence of the Federation was that increases were inevitable because of rising aviation turbine fuel rates, overhead costs, airport development fees and other expenses. The court’s response was that DGCA, as the aviation watchdog, should ensure that fares stayed within the stipulated rate bands. “They cannot be fluctuating,” it said.
DGCA said it had not taken any action against airlines who defaulted in collecting dues according to the December 17 circular. “We regret to note,” said the court order, “that having issued directions, it (DGCA) is hesitant to enforce its own direction.”