Govt warns of action; IndiGo calls off strike



Govt warns of action; IndiGo calls off strike Zeenews Bureau

New Delhi: Government on Saturday virtually ruled out any bail-out for the bleeding private airlines and warned them of "appropriate action" if flight schedules were disrupted. The pressure seems to be working with budget carrier IndiGo backing out of the strike and others saying they would reconsider their protest decision if their difficulties are addressed.

"The government understands the difficulties being faced by aviation sector. However, the government does not support any move that will inconvenience the traveling public of the country," Patel said in a statement.

"We advise the airlines to engage in a dialogue with the government," he said, while warning that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the sector's regulator, will be asked to take strict action if the airlines did not withdraw their threat.

However, cracks started appearing later in the day in a grouping of airlines that was planning to suspend flights on August 18 to protest high jet fuel prices and taxes, with budget carrier IndiGo saying it would operate as usual.

IndiGo's decision to ignore the call of Federation of Indian Airlines came hours after the government warned of "appropriate action" against those who disrupt the schedule.

"IndiGo appreciates the sentiments expressed by the Ministry of Civil Aviation that it understands the problems faced by the Indian aviation industry and that we should all engage in a dialogue with the ministry," IndiGo Airlines President Aditya Ghosh said in a statement.

Taking a tough stand on the private airlines decision to go on strike, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) directed all the private airlines to refund the air tickets to the passengers who were scheduled to travel on August 18.

DGCA’s decision comes after the private airlines yesterday declared that they would go on strike on August 18.

The decision to suspend operations, taken at a meeting in Mumbai of the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) on Friday, the representative body of private carriers in the country, has also been criticised by air travellers, who said this kind of threat should be dealt with severely.

"These people are in the service sector. They earn their bread and butter from us. How can they take such a decision that has no concern for passengers? There are ways to protest -- but certainly not this way," said Mohan Parthasarathy, an executive based here and a frequent traveller.

The Civil Aviation Minister said state-run Air India, which is not a member of the federation, will mount additional services Aug 18 so to reduce the inconvenience of passengers.

"The issue of tax on aviation turbine fuel is a state issue and the aviation ministry has been requesting the states for the past few years to see reason," he said, referring to one of the demands of private carriers for a cut in jet fuel prices.

"The other issues primarily relate to the slowdown in the economy, global and domestic, and the impact of high prices of aviation turbine fuel in 2008-09," the minister said.

Apart from a cut in sales tax on fuel, the private carriers have asked the government to direct oil retailers to sell aviation jet fuel cheaper and reduce the airport charges which they say have ballooned ever since private players were allowed into the field.

"Aviation fuel prices in India are among the highest in the world," said Anil Baijal, secretary general of the federation, adding this alone accounted for 30-40 percent of an airline's operational costs.

The private carriers owe nearly USD 00 million towards fuel to oil companies. Baijal said that the accumulated losses of private carriers amounted to nearly $2 billion.

Thus far, the civil aviation ministry has ruled out any bailout package for the aviation industry, even though moves are afoot to help the national carrier tide over one of its worst crises.

The Opposition parties, including the Left front and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have also said that a bailout package from the government would not be desirable.

With IANS inputs