Four major domestic airlines have escalated their protest over the 12 per cent increase in aviation turbine fuel (ATF) prices effected this month, refusing to pay the revised prices and seeking a Rs. 2,500-crore refund from oil marketing companies for failing to pass on the benefits of falling crude oil prices since 2014.
“Without prejudice…kindly note that the payments that are being currently made are to be treated as ‘under protest’ and thus our member airlines reserve the right to pay as per the rates prevailing in February 2016,” said a joint letter to oil companies signed by airline promoters Nusli Wadia (GoAir), Naresh Goyal (Jet Airways), Ajay Singh (SpiceJet) and Rahul Bhatia (Indigo).
The joint letter to Hindustan Petroleum Corporation chairperson and managing director Nishi Vasudeva, Indian Oil Corporation chairman B. Ashok and Bharat Petroleum Corporation Limited CMD S. Vardarajan was sent on March 16 on behalf of the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA).
“FIA seeks your co-operation and support to allow our member airlines to withhold payment of increased amounts due to the recent increase in ATF prices by 12 per cent, until the matter is conclusively determined in a transparent manner,” the promoters said in their letter seen by The Hindu.
The airlines have urged oil marketing companies to disclose the “ambiguous” and opaque price discovery mechanism they used for setting ATF prices. They argued that air fares have remained high as oil companies had not passed on the benefits of the continuous fall in global crude oil prices since 2014. “… As a result, you profited… wherein the airlines are still struggling,” they alleged, and sought a Rs. 2,500-crore refund.
I will drop here a bombshell. I know this might get many run away from the airport runway. No wonder, these days with delight we travel by air pretty often. Usually, we load ourselves with expensive personal items. Well, before we check-in, we do hand over all our precious luggage to the Airlines. Do you know what might happen if your bag containing a great many personal items gets lost in the transit? You will be very disappointed to know this. You might probably be paid just puny Rs 2000/- to Rs 4000/- as “compensation” —- almost like the cost for a bagful of “potatoes”, please mind, cost of the expensive bag excluded. This amount also comes to you only after putting in much effort. Who will compensate for your personal luxury items in the bag? Practically no one.
It was a nightmare for my friend Mr. Sharma (name changed..) whose bag was lost by GoAir airlines on 11 May 2018. He journey was from Bagdogra to Guwahati. And it is still a nightmare for him since he lost a small laptop which was inside the bag. More than other items, the loss of a laptop with its invaluable data has devastated him.
Since that fateful day, he has written more than 10 times to the Civil Aviation Ministry, New Delhi. But all futile exercise. Don’t ever trust any public grievance offices from New Delhi, they don’t even pick up the phone calls. For Mr. Sharma, the only achievement after so much of struggle is that the Airlines raised the compensation from Rs 2000/- to Rs 5000. Poor Mr. Sharma thought the Airlines will have a sense of compassion to understand his ordeal. But the language of humanity hardly moves them.
Now let’s evaluate the case other way round. Suppose, Jehangir Wadia, the CEO/owner of GoAir, wants to visit Shillong and puts up at the hotel of Mr. Sharma himself. Suppose Mr. Sharma’s servant lost the baggage of Mr. Wadia? Could Mr. Sharma tell without a sense of guilt to Mr. Wadia that my servant has lost your bags in the first place? What would be the action and reaction if Mr. Sharma would just give Mr. Wadia Rs 2000/- as compensation?
I know Mr. Wadia would go mad and spew fire upon Mr. Sharma. He will also immediately find ways to file a case against Mr. Sharma for his utter NEGLIGENCE. And, I’m dead sure, with the help of competent lawyers, Mr. Wadia would demand the “pound flesh” of Mr. Sharma. So, now come to the point — how could we say that the rich are great people. No, they are not great people who can’t ever sympathize with the suffering of the poor. Their “humanity” within has long been stabbed to death by their greed. Therefore, they can be unsympathetic to other poor people and keep making money. Is the richest man in the world — Jeff Bezos, owner of AMAZON, not now being heavily criticized for being unusually unkind to his own employees? He has been blamed for “chaotic conditions” in the workplace, utter lack of occupational safety and low wages. Hope you can figure out the usual character of rich men from here.
Or else poor Mr. Sharma’s letters of grievance would have been heard immediately as those business companies promptly respond the calls from prospective customers. Alas, now Mr. Sharma has no option but to face the ordeal of the major loss.
Oh dear regular fliers, so don’t be under the illusion that you are in a “democracy”. You, in fact, are literally in the regime of “capitalism”. Laws are made to save “Shylocks of the modern times”. All poor citizens have to slog and beg around for survival.
Salil Gewali is a well-known writer and author of ‘Great minds on India’. Twitter: @SGewali.