Raise compensation package for domestic air travellers: MPs

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New Delhi, Apr 30 (UNI) Lok Sabha members across party lines today demanded increase in compensation package for domestic air travellers also for loss or damage of baggage and death and injury during travel while participating in the dicussion on Carriage by Air (Amendment) Bill, 2007 taken up in the House.

The Bill, moved by Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel, is aimed at upgrading the compensation package for international travellers to bring it in line with the Montreal Convention.

Initiating the debate, former Civil Aviation Minister Shahnawaz Khan of BJP wanted expansion of short runway at Patna airport to overcome the panic of air travellers in the Bihar capital, operationalisation of Gaya airport to boost Buddhist travel circuit and building of Bhagalpur airport in his constituency. Lauding the Minister as "good" but questioning his "peformance", Khan urged Patel to be "impartial", asking the when the Minister's constituency could have an airport at Gondia, why one could not be built at Bhagalpur.

Urging the Minister to cut colossal waste of aviation turbine fuel (ATF) worth Rs 1,460 crore every year on account of air congestion, particularly over high-density Delhi and Mumbai airports, Khan said even if Delhi airport got revamped by 2010 in time for the Commonwealth Games, it would still remain crowded as passenger traffic had already risen to 2.30 crore. Inadequate infrastructure at Delhi airport had made crowding worse than at a railway station, he alleged.

The former minister said existing airports at Hyderabad and Bangalore should not be shut down with the operationalising of new ones.

S K Kharventhan of Congress wanted an increase in compensation package for domestic air travellers when for an international traveller, it was being raised to 1,000 SDRs(special drawing rights), equivalent to Rs 63 lakh from the existing Rs 5 lakh. He lauded the amendment bill for introducing two-tier regime for compensation in the event of death or injury and due to loss or damage of baggage, saying it would update India's legal regime enabling it in ratifying the Montreal Convention.

Mrs Bhavani Rajenthiran of DMK, while lauding the Minister for bringing "air revolution" in the country, also sought increase in compensation for domestic air travellors.

Sudhangshu Seal of CPI(M), supporting Khan of BJP on valuable time lost by passengers on account of delayed or cancelled flights, wondered if the staff of Indian Airlines and Air India had colluded with private airliners in helping the latter get more travellers at the cost of national carriers. He demanded restoration of direct Kolkata-Amsterdam flight to help flower exporters of the eastern metro to the Dutch city. The Marxist member said a group of four MPs, including himself, had not yet got any compensation for loss of baggage in June, 2007 during their journey to New York via London by British Airways.

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