The recent decision of Jet and Kingfisher to hike the fuel surcharge hits another blow to the sorry state of affairs of the Indian skies today.
As it is, the domestic air fares in India are far higher than that of many other countries - the recent increase of Rs 300/- of fuel surcharge bringing up taxes+surcharge to Rs 1650 is just another addition to the long list of "why air travel isnt good"
We already have factors like
1. Delays in the flight schedules, making the old railways joke of
"Passenger 1 : This train is dot on time, India sure is progressing
Passenger 2 : Oh no sir, this train was scheduled to arrive a couple of days back, its arrived today." passe.
Today, we can see people sleeping around in the air terminals like they used to, in the railway platforms earlier (do they still do? please do let me know).
Ridiculous excuses are stated for delays and shoddy service.
2. Pricing of food and water is such that if Bill Gates happened to stay long enough at our airports, he would soon be reduced to beggary. So, even when you have left home - well stuffed, having eaten well and drunk adequate amount of water to keep you those four hours from Bangalore to Delhi, you find yourself shelling our Rs65 for a samosa because of point 1 above.
3. Poor maintainence of the air terminals. One cannot but wonder the efficency of the system which asks you to cough up Rs 1650 as "taxes and surcharge" to gobble it all up without a trace being shown on the improvement of these terminals.
Read with conjunction of Point1 above, you'll see that you have three times the number of people who can be accomodated at a given point of time in the departure lounge, leading to crowding and all the side effects of crowding (the smells, sights et all).
4. With all the surcharges being added into the definition of taxes, the travel agents lose out on the commission recieveable, making this business more and more cold and distant. The travellers get into sites like makemytrip.com which shows the basic fare when you search for air fares, but adds close to Rs 2000 in taxes as you decide to buy the ticket.
Add to that the refund woes.
Ideally, once you cancel a ticket in advance, the passenger is entitled to recieve the taxes that he had paid; but with the congestion charge and fuel surcharge being forfieted, even if the passenger has paid close to Rs 3000/- on a ticket, he ends up getting back only Rs225/- and that too, if he is lucky. God save the poor passenger if he has booked it with one of these web portals, because he might just lose all that Rs225 trying to call up the customer care centre in wierd places like Gurgaon and which do not employ a toll free number, and even if they do, this number is forever off the hook/engaged thus forcing the customer to call on a toll number.
This is a double gain for these carriers, as they dont have to pay commission on these so called taxes and since the definition is built for convience of these carriers; they arent refunded when the passenger cancels the ticket.
With the public carriers stuck in the quagmire of losses (both Indian and Air India have reported losses this year); one cannot expect them to bail the passengers out of this situation.
The only alternative being going back to train travel, which though would come as a news of delight to Mr Lalu Prasad Yadav, is a step backwards in the progress of the country. Shelling out close to Rs 1800, one can enjoy travelling in the I class AC coach of a train, with nothing but those precious days lost in travelling to lose. Where as you pay close to a total fare of Rs 2025 and end up waiting and sweating it out in the airport lounge for close to 4 hours and jostling your fellow travellers for board the flight and huff and puff into your seat to realise you are thirsty and pay Rs 100 for a small bottle of mineral water. I personally, am surprised, these air carriers allow you to use the loo without charging any "surcharge" for this.
India is a country with immense potential for air traffic, with a massive population of the middle classes who are increasingly able to afford air travel, these amenties should get better and more efficient rather going back to the stone age. It makes sense from a long term profit perspective to improve these facilities and pull up their socks for these private air carriers, but I guess they love to be myopic.
The Indian skies were opened up to the private sector with the hope of allowing for more efficency and effectiveness to any class of people that these private air carriers wanted to cater to; I guess that goal has been lost somewhere in the haze of balance sheets and profits that these people want to book.
I hope this silences those sections of people who would like to see more of private investments in the infrastructure and other places of national interest.
PS : thanks to the above though, I was able to book at ticket at 6:30 PM, travel through congested roads for over an hour, and still be able to catch my flight which was scheduled to leave at 8:30PM. No prizes for guessing the fact correctly that the flight was over an hour late and I ended up waiting in the lounge, instead of staring morosely into the skies where the craft should have been, if it was on time.
PS 2: Inputs and some info taken from ET. the rant, though is mine :D
With Zee's help. how can I forget the awful messups these airports create under the mask of "air traffic congestion"? An airplane waits like a prisoner in queue for his daily ration of food, for hours together before they it take off.
A plane lands at an interim airport say the Delhi bound aircraft lands at Hyderabad for a stopover of 15 minutes, this soon stretches to four hours due to "air traffic congestion" in the Delhi aiport.
A plane decides not to go the scheduled port of destination and throws the passengers off at a completely different location.
And of course - read Zee's comment here