Migrant workers in Gulf being charged exorbitant fares for air tickets
31 Aug, 2020
By Modnath Dhakal Kathmandu, Aug. 31: Government’s liberal step to allow airlines to operate scheduled commercial flights instead of chartered ones is costing the passengers almost double of the regular fare. Meanwhile, migrant workers in the Gulf countries are being forced to buy the air tickets back to their country in the black market. Nepali migrants in Dubai said that it was hard to get tickets as the seats were limited while the number of people wanting to return to the home country was astonishingly high. Nepali workers who were already disappointed with the high charge on airfare have encountered a new menace of ticket shortage. “Some of my friends were asked to pay Rs. 80,000 to 85,000 for the one-way travel to return home while some are ready to pay up to Rs. 100,000 since tickets are scarce. Some travel companies are selling tickets at higher rates,” said Tikaram Dhakal, manager in a company in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. The average rate for one-way travel is about Rs. 69,000 which is much higher compared to the chartered flights which operated earlier. The per passenger ticketing rate for the chartered flights was US $390 (Rs. 46,400) to UAE. A travel agent in Kathmandu urging for anonymity said to The Rising Nepal that the airlines were selling only business class tickets and charging the high travel fare. “You don’t find the economy class tickets which means the passengers have to pay about Rs. 69,000 for the travel,” he said. “We are making calls to Dubai and other destinations for the price while Nepalis there are calling us as a last resort to get the tickets.” According to him, plus 5,000 can be a norm due to the higher demand and less supply. The main reason behind this anarchy is the Cabinet decision to bring in only 500 passengers to the country in a day. Therefore, though the government has opened the scheduled flights from September 1, the jetliners have got about one flight to Kathmandu in a week. According to the estimates of the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCTCA) and Ministry of Labour, Employment and Social Security, about 150,000 Nepalis are willing to come to the country from different foreign nations, especially the Gulf. Suresh Acharya, Joint Secretary and Information Officer of the MoCTCA, said that the government had given permission to the scheduled flights in order to ease the market, maintain transparency and facilitate the travellers. Another benefit of the scheduled flight is that the travel agencies will also get the business. The government can’t force any airlines company in terms of the airfare; they are free to charge the rate as per the supply and demand situation. The airlines have grabbed the opportunity and selling only the higher-class tickets . Acharya said that there was a fault on the part of the service providers in terms of setting the airfare. However, there is no law to monitor the international travel fare. Meanwhile, the MoCTCA is taking a proposal to the Cabinet to increase the number of Nepalis to be brought to the country to at least 1000 per day for the initial period and take further steps as per the situation. “Since we are bringing those people who test negative for COVID-19 , there wouldn’t be pressure in quarantine camps as the passengers can be sent directly for home quarentine,” said Acharya. The flights are opened for the Nepali citizens abroad, staff and officials of the diplomatic agencies and development partners and the United Nations agencies. The government has given permission to the staff, representative of 33 agencies and ogranisations and their families. It includes the agencies like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, USAID, GIZ, International Labour Organisation and Unicef. All foreign nationals arriving in Nepal should go for a mandatory 7-day quarantine in a hotel.