Haj airfares set to go up

June 7th, 2008 - 5:21 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, June 7 (IANS) Haj airfares are all set to go up soon with the airlines reporting major losses due to high aviation fuel prices. A senior aviation ministry official confirmed Saturday that the Haj airfares were being reviewed. The ministry this month recommended the two-way fare hike from Rs.12,000 per pilgrim to Rs.16,000 citing rising fuel prices.

The proposal in this regard would be sent to Foreign Minister Pranab Mukherjee for his approval.

Although the foreign ministry handles Haj-related issues, it is the state-owned Air India that flies the pilgrims to Saudi Arabia and back.

But Mukherjee may not approve, as the issue is politically important for the government. Many states will go to polls this year and the general elections are due next year.

“The government may revoke the Haj airfare hike, as there is already so much hue and cry over the hike in petroleum products,” a senior Congress leader said.

According to the aviation ministry, the hike in aviation fuel has increased the operational cost of flying Haj pilgrims from Rs.178,000 to Rs.211,000 per hour.

Many airlines have raised their fares after the state-run oil companies increased aviation fuel prices by 18.5 percent May 31. The government later cut custom duties on petroleum products, which brought down the fuel surcharges from 18.5 to 12.5 percent.

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