New Delhi: Agitating travel agents have found support among the Left parties and trade unions. In the past one month, 15 airlines, including Air India, the national carrier, have withdrawn the 5% commission they paid to travel agents. With the Left parties all set to bring it up in the Parliament session that begins 10 December, the travel agents’ commission issue has now become political.
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Speaking at a public meeting called by IATA Agents Association of India (IAAI) in New Delhi, CPI(M) leader Brinda Karat said, “At least 1 million members of the Indian public are going to be affected by a decision of the Indian government and yet the government does not find necessary to speak to a single representative of the travel agency. I think this is absolutely outrageous and we strongly protest against it.” She also accused Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel of being a “private airline minister” and not taking into account the views of other stakeholders.
Citu President, M.K.Pandhe also pledged the support of the trade unions for the travel agents.
Airline companies have told travel agents that they are free to levy transaction charges anywhere between Rs350 to 10,000. But agents say this is something that effectively destroys their source of earnings. The travel service sector employs more than 1 million people and accounts for more than 97% of all air ticket bookings.
“If there is a ticket value of Rs40,000, now we collect Rs40,000 from the passenger and we are paying only Rs38,000 to the airline. But today, if we are charging Rs40,000 for the airfare and I’m giving you Rs2000 additional bill, saying this is transaction fee for me. Do you think that apart from the ticket fare, you’ll pay Rs2000 more?” asks Biji Eapen, President, IATA Agents Association of India. He also points out that the 5% charge that airlines have withdrawn has not translated into cheaper air- fares and therefore does not benefit travelers.
For airline companies struggling to survive, the move was one more way of cutting costs. But with political pressure now building up, whether they will be forced to rethink their decision remains to be seen.