India UAE Flights: Expat group files lawsuit in Delhi High Court for “exorbitant” prices for India-UAE flights

The Delhi High Court asked the DGCA for a statement on Monday to hear a writ petition challenging the high cost of airline tickets on flights between the Gulf countries and India.

The Delhi-based political group Kerala Pravasi Association filed a petition challenging Rule 135 of the 1937 Aircraft Rules on the grounds that it is arbitrary, vague, and unconstitutional.

The airlines have been charging excessive, unreasonable, and prohibitive prices for travel from countries in the Gulf region to Kerala, and the rest of India claims the Court’s argument.

According to the petition, this has led to severe obstacles for Indian people who want to travel to and from these nations, primarily for jobs, businesses, and education.

The appeal also stated that such excessive and unreasonable prices restrict air travel as a form of transportation, violating the constitutional rights of Indian passengers traveling to or from Gulf countries.

What does the state of law do?

Each air transport company subject to sub-rules (1) and (2) of Rule 134 shall establish a tariff in accordance with Rule 135 of the 1937 Aircraft Rules that take into account all pertinent factors, including the cost of operation, the features of the service, a reasonable profit, and the generally accepted tariff.

What is the reaction of the petitioners?

According to the petition, although Rule 135(4) of the Aircraft Rules, 1937 gives DGCA the authority to give instructions to an airline if it has established an excessive tariff in violation of Rule 135(1) or has engaged in oligopolistic behavior, the said provision is rendered ineffective due to the arbitrary and unrestrained powers granted to the airlines to establish tariffs under Rule 135(1) of the Rules.

Kerala Pravasi Association, the petitioners, requests the revocation of Rule 135 or an immediate preliminary remedy concerning airline costs. The senior members of the NRI association assert that this may be the first time a writ petition contesting Rule 135(1) has been filed. The Kerala Pravasi Association is a political organization with chapters worldwide, including in the United Arab Emirates. The organization is registered with the Indian Election Commission.

Kuriakose Varghese, a managing partner at KMNP Law and a Supreme Court attorney, filed the case on behalf of the NRI group. According to Rajendran Vellapalath, the chairman of the Kerala Pravasi Association, the flights to Kerala are among the most expensive. Depending on the sector the traveler is flying, peak season airfares between India and the UAE might increase from Dh 1,500 to Dh 3,000.

The writ challenges Rule 135 (1) of the 1937 Aircraft Rules, according to Varghese. He added that certain reasonable restrictions must be followed while determining airfare costs. He also affirmed that his organization would not locate a representation for the DGCA based on the Court’s decision and will take further actions from there.

According to Varghese, basing fares on the market makes it highly lucrative and arbitrary.

We are pleased that the High Court did not dismiss our petition, Vellapalath said. We’ve been invited to communicate with the DGCA instead. Based on their response, he added that the political organization is prepared to appeal to the Supreme Court of India.

Even though similar petitions have been submitted in the past, Varghese said that courts rarely take on such complex cases.

This is a situation where economics and law are intertwined. He noted that stakeholders typically adopt a take it or leave it approach, particularly during peak travel times, it is a very gray area of ‚Äč‚Äčoperation, and there is no transparency on the subject.

To no avail, this matter has also been brought up by several members of the Indian Parliament, community organizations in the UAE, travel agents, and other non-profit organizations.

In bilateral negotiations, when two countries are engaged, the civil aviation regulatory authority can decide what kind of charge needs to be assessed on passengers traveling between the sectors, Vellapalath continued. The government may cap the price of the tickets at either a minimum or maximum.

During peak Covid-19, the government set a ceiling on domestic airfare prices. Vellapalath questioned, why can’t the same be done for overseas airlines.

Airlines have reportedly kept their peak-season operations capacity lower between Gulf areas and India. The public cannot be taken advantage of, claimed Vellapalath. The government should not enable airlines to create profiles of its citizens. Let them increase it if there is a capacity crunch.

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