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With fare bands already in place, DGCA asks SpiceJet to stop its discounted ticket sale offer

The aviation regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on August 3 2020 asked domestic carrier SpiceJet to withdraw its five-day sale offer for discounted tickets.

SpiceJet on August 3 morning announced it has started a five-day “1+1 offer sale” where it was offering one-way base fares starting as low as Rs 899, excluding taxes, on its domestic network. They also announced that customers booking a ticket during the sale will get a complimentary voucher with a maximum value of Rs 2,000 per booking, which can be used for future bookings. To woo passengers further, the airline has also included an offer for an upgrade to SpiceMax at Rs 499. The flight tickets can be booked for the travel period until March 31, 2021.

On this, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) sought immediate clarification from the airline on whether the same violates the fare rules. A SpiceJet spokesman said, “We have already complied with the DGCA directive.”

When domestic flights were allowed to resume on May 25, the government had set the minimum and maximum fares on each route to ensure that airlines neither overcharge passengers nor do they charge unsustainably low fares. The Civil Aviation Ministry had on May 21 placed upper and lower limits on domestic airfares through seven bands, classified based on flight duration, till August 24. Later, it was extended till November 24.

The first such band consists of flights that are of less than 40 minutes duration. The lower and the upper fare limits for the first band is Rs 2,000 and Rs 6,000, respectively. The subsequent bands are for flights with durations of 40 to 60 minutes, 60 to 90 minutes, 90 to 120 minutes, 120 to 150 minutes, 150 to 180 minutes and 180 to 210 minutes. The lower and upper limits for these bands are: Rs 2,500 to Rs 7,500; Rs 3,000 to Rs 9,000; Rs 3,500 to Rs 10,000; Rs 4,500 to Rs 13,000; Rs 5,500 to Rs 15,700 and Rs 6,500 to Rs 18,600, respectively, The regulator had made it clear that each airline would sell at least 40 per cent of its tickets on a flight at prices less than the midpoint between the lower limit and upper limit.

Along with the limits on airfares, the government had asked the airlines to operate not more than 33 per cent of their pre-COVID domestic flights. On June 26, the cap was increased to 45 per cent.