Steep airfare to Kerala sparks boycott threat

SHARJAH - The Indian associations' Sharjah, Dubai, Umm Al Quwain, and several social and cultural centres representing large number of Keralites living in the UAE, have threatened to boycott both the Indian carriers - Air India and Indian Airlines flights on the Gulf sectors on March 3, if decision on fare reduction, or, starting budget flights, is not implemented immediately by the Indian government.

By Meraj Rizvi

Published: Sat 31 Jan 2004, 12:22 PM

Last updated: Thu 2 Apr 2015, 2:32 AM

"Reduce fares, or, accept the proposal to start budget flights on the Gulf sector to offer non-resident Keralites a less expensive mode of travel," proposed representatives of the 30 organisations all over the UAE, at a meeting convened at the Indian Association Sharjah office, yesterday. The meeting was convened to discuss among many issues the various grievances of the Non-Resident Indians including seasonal fare hikes in national carriers, rehabilitation of Gulf returnees, to avoid hurdles to attest the certificates of the job seekers from India and introduce budget airlines.

Around 50 members representing the Indian associations - Dubai, Sharjah and Umm Al Quwain, Malayali Samajam Abu Dhabi, Kerala Samajam Ras Al Khaimah, Indian Social and Cultural Club Kalba, Indian Social Centre Ajman, and Kerala Pravasi Association Abu Dhabi, met in Sharjah yesterday to strongly protest against Air India's recent decision rejecting the proposal to start budget flights on the Gulf sector, and turning down repeated requests to rationalise fares by both the national carriers.

Y.A Rahim, President of Indian Association, Sharjah, who chaired the meeting, said: "Despite several meetings in the past with the Indian authorities and representations made to the Indian Prime Minister as well as Rajiv Pratap Rudy, Union Civil Aviation Minister, to rationalise fares on the Gulf sectors, no action has been reported."

He said a proposal was also put forward to the Indian government jointly by members of several Non-resident Keralite Associations in the Gulf during the three-day Bharatiya Pravasi Diwas meeting held from January 9 to 11 in New Delhi. "We urged the Indian government to look immediately into the problems of hapless Gulf passengers fleeced by the national carriers with erratic fare hikes, particularly, during the summer season. The fares on the Dubai-Kerala sectors touch a high of Dh3, 000 thereafter, setting precedent for other foreign carriers flying on this sector to hike their fares," Mr Rahim said.

He said the Indian Civil Aviation Minister had promised to look into the issue and resolve it by the end of January. But, we have not yet heard from his office.

As a result, we have now decided to take necessary action in the interest of the Gulf Keralites, which account for 25 per cent of Air India's revenue. "We will boycott the national carriers, if they fail to recede to our requests, and will negotiate special fares with other private airlines and assure them of complete business from the region," said Surendra Manadiyar, President of Kerala Pravasi Association, Abu Dhabi.

Necessary arrangements to pass a resolution in Kerala Legislative Assembly against the national carriers will also be carried out, he added.

A signature campaign from three lakh Indians in the UAE against the price hike in airfares in the national carriers will also be launched, it was decided.

Sohan Singh, President of Indian Social and Cultural Club, Kalba, said that the Non-resident Indians travelling on Indian Airlines route from Sharjah to Amritsar are forced to pay Dh300 more than passengers travelling to Delhi, which is via Amritsar. We do not understand the logic in paying higher fares for Amritsar when the route is Sharjah-Amritsar-Delhi. We request the airline to simply put the Sharjah-Amritsar fare on par with the Delhi fare, Mr Singh said on behalf of the many who end up paying erratic fares without any logical explanation given to them from the airline officials.

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