Indian Government Looks To Fix Flight Prices To Aid Recovery

In a move to protect passengers from exorbitant ticket prices and airlines from predatory pricing from competitors, the Indian Government is planning for post-lockdown airfare regulations.

Vistara 787 Dreamliner
The Indian Government is contemplating airfare regulations for when air travel resumes. Photo: Getty Images

Post-COVID air travel and fares

Flying is bound to look very different on the other side of corona. Face masks are already widely required. Flight attendants may be wearing full protective gear for a long time to come. The dreaded middle seat may or may not be empty, depending on who gets their way. And the newest passenger could be a designated sky janitor, disinfecting surfaces on the go.

Another point of speculation is how much air travel will cost in the post-COVID era. Most agree that fares will be higher. The Indian government is planning to take regulatory measures to make sure they do not skyrocket – or, for that matter, plunge to rock bottom, once air transport resumes post-lockdown.

MOCA to introduce caps and floors

As reported by the news outlet Business Standard, the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MOCA) of India has started discussions on temporary caps and floors on ticket prices in a bid to “protect both consumers and airlines.”

According to officials familiar with the matter, the government feels that it is essential that airfares do not become too expensive, in the interest of travelers. However, it is also concerned with the potential for predatory price-setting in an attempt to draw as many customers as possible, endangering the financial viability of airlines.

IndiGo SpiceJet Getty Images
The concern is for exorbitant prices on the one hand, and predatory pricing on the other. Photo: Getty Images

Freeing up airspace

The Indian Government is also planning for reform in its airspace management. When restrictions ease up, more of the country’s airspace, of which currently only about 60% is available at the moment will be freed up.

This will reduce flying times and fuel use, which, in addition to granting airlines much needed financial relief, could result in lower fares for passengers in the long run.

The domestic and international travel ban for the subcontinent has, thus far, been extended by authorities until the end of the month.

Air India A320neo
India recently announced that it would be easing restrictions on the use of its airspace. Photo: Airbus

Other fees under authority criticism

To say that it is the first time government authorities have their say about airline product prices would not be entirely accurate. On May 4th, ultra-low-cost carrier, US Frontier Airlines, introduced a “more space” fee. This option would allow passengers to make sure the middle seat next to them would be blocked if they were willing to part with $39.

Forty-eight hours later, the product was removed as Frontier received heavy criticism from the US Congress. Lawmakers expressed concerns that the airline was profiting from safety. The House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure has also stepped in to urge airlines to apply social distancing on flights.

However, as far as this reporter is aware, this is the only occasion so far where authorities are planning to step in and regulate airfares across the board post-COVID. We have yet to hear what Chinese authorities made, if anything, of regional airline Air Changan’s three-row cocoon offering. 

Are you aware of any other regulations in the works? Do you think it is right for governments to set parameters for ticket prices as air travel resumes, or should it be left to the industry? Let us know in the comments.