Saturday, 6 March, 2021
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EDITORIAL

Exorbitant Airfares



Nepalis working in the Gulf countries and aspiring to return home are reportedly forced to pay exorbitant air fares as airlines are unfairly trying to take advantage of a difficult situation created by COVID-19 pandemic. This is absolutely an undesirable strategy of the aviation companies to overcharge the Nepali workers who are returning home after job losses or pay cuts. The airlines currently operating flights from the Gulf countries to Kathmandu are selling business class tickets whose fares are exorbitant and often unaffordable for workers in financial strains. Denying the aspirant travellers economy class tickets is fraught with unfair business intention of deliberately making customers pay higher fares. This anomaly has cropped up after the government permitted airlines to conduct scheduled commercial flights to the Gulf countries to bring in Nepali migrant workers. This arrangement ends the earlier decision of conducting chartered flights that used to have comparatively lower airfares. For instance, a chartered flight from UAE would cost Rs. 46,400 (USD 390). Now the fare of a ticket in the scheduled commercial flight ranges from Rs. 69,000 up to Rs. 100,000.
It is okay to sell business class tickets to those who want them but forcing the purchase to those who don’t want them is a burning example of unfair treatment. The flights are allowed to bring in, besides Nepali migrant workers, members of foreign diplomatic missions in Nepal and staff of the UN and donor agencies based in Nepal. While the staff of the diplomatic missions and other international agencies may not find it unaffordable to purchase business class air tickets, it is not fair to treat the Nepali migrant workers in the same way. The airlines should avail a choice to buy economy class tickets. Even more worrisome is the fact that Nepali workers with urgency of coming home are compelled to purchase air tickets in the black market. This is unfair practice that needs to be corrected in time so that travelling home for Nepali migrant workers does not turn to be an economic nightmare. Ticket sales in the black market are thriving as the agents scare the urgent travellers by saying that there is a shortage of tickets. The government and the Nepali diplomatic missions in the concerned countries must take action to check such unreasonable activities.
There are desperate people who had to pay Rs. 85,000 for a ticket and the black market agents raise the rate as high as Rs. 100,000. The average rate for a ticket from the Gulf to Kathmandu now is Rs. 69,000. Had the economy class tickets been available, the rate would be much lower than this. But flying cheaper has been a far cry now because the airlines are not selling the economy class tickets. Why aren’t the travellers getting to buy the ticket of their choice? Searching for an answer to this question may lead to a revelation of ugly kind. According to government estimates, around 150,000 Nepali workers in the Gulf countries are willing to fly home. But the government has permitted to bring in only 500 passengers per day. Government officials say that there is no mechanism to control the airfares and the rates are determined by demand-supply situation in the aviation market. Leaving things to take for themselves may lead to manipulation for faster bucks exploiting the pandemic situation.  

How do you feel after reading this news?