I happened to read this in yesterday’s newspaper but was way too shocked about the scam to react. Here is what was happening while no one was looking, as per the news report:
The Rajya Sabha secretariat paid long haul international fares for domestic air tickets for one of its members. The scam was detected only when the MP realized the incredulous prices paid for the tickets and then complained to the government.
The secretariat paid Rs 99,292 for a one-way Delhi-Chennai flight on Jet Airways for Ashk Ali Tak, a Congress RS member from Rajasthan. A Chennai-Hyderabad ticket on Air India was bought for Rs 35,184. A Hyderabad-Bangalore journey on Jet and a Bangalore-Jaipur ticket on low cost IndiGo ‘cost’ Rs 67,270 and Rs 17,270, respectively.
Luckily the Member of Parliament who was travelling on these tickets was smart enough to do some digging into the matter, and make a formal complaint. With all the talk about high air fares in India, this still looked like an impossible fare to have, to pay about INR 100K ($ 1800) for a 1100 miles/2.5 hours flight on DEL-MAA. This is almost the fare one would charge on a return trip from India to the USA after all, and still have change left in the pocket!
So, here is what came out of this, when the regulator went ahead and asked the airline to explain the fares. The airlines told them this:
Jet Airways said it got Rs 39,292 from the agent for the Delhi-Chennai ticket which was sold to the RS Secretariat by the latter for a whopping for Rs 99,292; and Rs 17,270 for the Hyderabad-Bangalore ticket that was ‘bought’ for Rs 67,270. AI said it got Rs 4,484 for the Chennai-Hyderabad ticket which was bought for Rs 35,184. IndiGo said it got Rs 8,910 for the Bangalore-Jaipur ticket that was bought for Rs 38,410,
The regulator is now going to run an awareness campaign on how to avoid cheating travel agents. This incident however makes me wonder, how long has this been going on while no one was looking, and if the government is going to be able to validate each ticket from years ago to verify if the right price was charged by the travel agent.
I can share with you from prior experience that enlisting with the Government or one of its owned entities is not an easy task, but I still wonder why do the mom and pop agencies still get all the business?
With the amount of business they have, a simple and effective travel workflow management system can do wonders for them. Almost every one of the online travel agents like Makemytrip has one of these systems, and there are big organised travel agents such as American Express who are out there with excellent systems and processes and negotiated rates with travel services. And even if they wanted to keep it inside India for whatever reasons and not, they have IRCTC who now also sells flight tickets.
I’m hoping there is some real output on this rather than just another time when the government looks the other way.