The travel and tour agencies of the country have accused the government of allowing only a few agencies to book tickets for repatriation and regular flights.

To prevent the COVID-19 infection from spreading in the country, the government had halted flight operations for the last five months. The government had only allowed repatriation, emergency and cargo flights during this period. Amid this, the travel and tour agencies of the country have been accusing the Ministry of Culture, Tourism and Civil Aviation (MoCT- CA) and the airline companies for choosing a few select travel agencies to operate chartered flights.

“Till date, the government has been allowing chartered flights for which limited travel agents, who have access to power, have been arranging the flights and charging random airfares,” said Achyut Guragain, president of Nepal Association of Tour and Travel Agents (NATTA). He further claimed that giving the permission to a limited number of agents to book tickets is like jointly looting the passengers.

As per him, NATTA had approached MoCTCA after the government announced repatriation flights. “We had requested the MoCTCA to allow all the agencies to work for repatriation flights due to which the passengers would also have to pay lower airfares,” he said. “Though the ministry did promise to listen to our request it failed to do so.”

And now that regular international flights are reopening from Wednesday, the airline companies have again allowed only a few travel agencies to book tickets, Guragain added.

Meanwhile, CN Pandey, former president of NATTA, said that airline companies and the few selected travel agencies are collaborating with each other to charge high airfares from passengers.

“Passengers are forced to pay expensive airfares and do not have any other option as only four or five travel agents are working on repatriation flights,” he said, adding, “We all have to come together to end this syndicate of airline companies and a few agents.”

Amid this, NATTA has decided to send a warning letter to all the stakeholders and a meeting with MoCTCA has also been arranged for Wednesday. “We will be requesting MoCTCA to end this syndicate style of functioning and give all eligible parties the opportunity to work. If everyone gets a chance to book tickets for flights then passengers will also be able to save money,” Guragain said. “If the authorities ignore our demand then we will have to launch a protest.”

A version of this article appears in e-paper on September 2, 2020, of The Himalayan Times.

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