Around a fourth (700) of the over 2,700 IATA airline ticket agents across the country are boycotting ticket sales of the 16 airlines, foreign and Indian, that have refused to pay them commission, even as the Left plans to raise the issue in Parliament.
Travel agents said the move will impact nearly 25 per cent of tickets sold by airlines and they expect at least 1 million jobs to be threatened. Job losses could be higher since about 300,000 employees working in over 30,000 non-IATA ticket agents also face closure.
“All our members across the country have stopped selling tickets for carriers like Jet Airways, Air India and Kingfisher. We will continue to do so until they agree to pay us commissions,” confirmed Biji Eapen, President, IATA Agents Association of India, which represents IATA travel agents.
“We will also not levy the transaction fees that they have told us to,” added Subhash Goyal, chairman, Stic Travels, a travel agency based out of Delhi.
The airlines unilaterally withdrew the 5 per cent commission from November 1, citing the aviation meltdown and the need to conform to international practices. Instead the airlines have asked the agents to charge a transaction fee from customers, which they have refused to do.
Meanwhile, members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee for Transportation and Tourism, which is headed by Communist Party of India (Marxist) Politburo member Sitaram Yechury, have decided to raise the matter in Parliament when it reconvenes on December 10. Support has also come from other Left parties, which collectively have 61 seats in the Lok Sabha.
Speaking on behalf of Yechury who was unable to attend the meeting, Left trade unionist MK Pandhe said, “The Parliamentary Standing Committee stands in solidarity with the travel agents associations and will take up the issue.”
The travel agents are also meeting the top leadership of the Bhartiya Janata Party (BJP) soon to gain support from parties across political affiliations.
Airlines, however, disagreed that ticket sales had been impacted. “Apart from some agents in Kerala, no agent has boycotted our ticket sales. It is absolutely untrue that 700 agents have boycotted sales,” said a top Kingfisher sales executive.