IndiGo, the country’s largest airline by market share, came under criticism from the parliamentary committee’s report on customer satisfaction with airlines.

The committee, headed by Derek O’Brien, said in its report that there had been many incidents of manhandling, discourteous and rude behaviour by airlines staff, especially at IndiGo.

Last November, IndiGo found itself in the middle of a PR disaster after a video doing the rounds in social media showed the airline’s staff allegedly manhandling a flier.

The committee advised IndiGo to develop a consumer-friendly approach in dealing with their passengers and find out the reasons for the discourteous attitude and rude and indifferent behaviour of their employees. The committee also pulled up Aditya Ghosh, IndiGo’s President and Whole-Time Director, for suggesting that the staff members of the airline hired from tier-II and III cities, many of them educated at government schools, are often untrained in soft skills and unable to speak fluent English.

“We have a challenge of getting talented people in this industry. For a country of 130 crore people, one shortage we have is talent,” Ghosh said. “IndiGo is investing more and more on training.”

The committee, in its report, lambasted Ghosh and said that if “a particular airline has grown exponentially, (it) should deploy a proportionate amount to the training of (its) staff instead of misbehaving and manhandling the passengers or blaming the youngsters from tier-II and III cities and government schools.”

On-time performance

The report also mentioned IndiGo for over-estimating its estimated flight time to boost its on-time performance.

The report said: “It was brought to the notice of the committee that the flying time of IndiGo from Indore to Delhi is two hours whereas in other airlines, it is only one hour and 30 five minutes. IndiGo is adopting a longer flying time in various sectors of their flights just to bolster their on-time performance.” IndiGo’s on-time performance record has fallen to 60 per cent in the last few months after the Directorate General of Civil Aviation changed its methodology to measure this metric, putting SpiceJet in the lead.

The report also pulled up IndiGo for not making food available to flyers on board unless they pre-booked meals along with the ticket.

At the time of going to press, IndiGo had not responded to BusinessLine 's request for comment on the committee’s criticism of the airline.

The aviation industry, in general, faced considerable flak in the report, with the committee saying that of all customer complaints, 30.5 per cent of the flyers had poor customer service experiences, 16 per cent pointed fingers at flight problems like sudden cancellation and delay, 22 per cent had issues with their baggage and 7.5 per cent did not like staff behaviour.

Pricing issue

The committee brought fare pricing under the scanner as well, noting that pricing is often arbitrary, especially during peak travel season and festival periods.

“A deregulatory environment does not mean unlimited freedom of exploitation. Windfall profits cannot be taken from the hapless passengers especially from those working class passengers who are travelling in the Gulf sector.” The committee also said that certain private airlines create long queues at the check-in counters to delay the process of check-in so that passengers miss their scheduled flights. This compels them to buy tickets at exorbitant prices to travel in the next available flight.

A statement from the Ministry of Civil Aviation said that it proposes to issue an easy-to-understand Air Passenger Bill of Rights. “We will be undertaking extensive public consultations to finalise the same.”

On the committee’s criticisms on fare pricing, it said that airlines do comply with existing pricing regulations.

“Pricing deregulation has allowed competition to bring down prices dramatically in India, making it one of the lowest-fare markets in the world. Domestic airlines follow globally-accepted dynamic pricing practices. Only between 1 per cent and 2 per cent of tickets are transacted at the highest fare basket and a capping of fares could raise prices for the 98-99 per cent of the passengers.”