Tuesday, April 12, 2011

High fares ground flights to Kurram

High fares ground flights to Kurram

By Zulfiqar Ali | From the Newspaper

PESHAWAR, April 10: The political administration of Kurram Agency has ordered a private aviation company to stop its chartered aircraft service to Parachinar following complaints by local people that the company charges exorbitant fares from them.

The elders of the volatile area complained that the Lahore-based Hybrid Aviation charged Rs18,000 to Rs20,000 one-way fare from each passenger between Peshawar and Parachinar, the administrative headquarters of Kurram Agency.
An official said that after verification of the complaints, the authorities directed the management of the company in Parachinar on Saturday to stop flight operations. He said that the company agents were charging excessive fares, which angered local people.
The people have stopped travelling by road after militants attacked four passenger coaches on Thall-Parachinar Highway in Baggun, lower Kurram on March 26. Three persons were killed and two others wounded in the broad daylight attack while 35 passengers were kidnapped.
The elders of the area have decided that local people would not use Thall-Parachinar Road unless government released 35 kidnapped persons from their captors and made foolproof security arrangements to prevent such attacks in the future.
Local people have been virtually stranded after the attacks. They can neither take detour via Kabul owing to blockade of border with Afghanistan nor travel through main road due to insecurity. The prevailing situation has forced them to meet tough 'demands' of the aviation company's agents.
The chartered flight service between Peshawar and Parachinar was started in 2009 owing to blockade of the main road and insecurity in the area. Initially government had authorised four aviation companies to operate chartered flights for the besieged valley.
The road was opened in February this year after implementation of a peace agreement and two aviation companies stopped flights while Peshawar Flying Club, a semi-government organisation, and Hybrid Aviation, a private company, continued the service.
An official of Civil Aviation Authority told this correspondent that the companies, except Flying Club, didn't have prescribed booking offices and had hired mobile local agents to facilitate passengers. The Flying Club is using its own facility for loading and off loading of passengers while other companies use the CAA premises at Peshawar International Airport.
"The CAA will take action if passengers lodge complaint regarding fare, flight safety and other facilities. But we have yet to receive any complaint," the official said. The Flying Club, which operates four-seat light aircraft, charges Rs8,500 one-way fare per passenger. The travel agents of Hybrid Aviation receive minimum Rs18,000 one-way fare from each passenger.
Sources said that a passenger in Parachinar, who was going to Middle East, had paid Rs40,000 to get a seat on the flight to Peshawar to catch his connecting flight.
Hybrid Aviation manager flights Mohsin Syed, when contacted, said that the company sold airtime and charged Rs90,000 per hour. He said that the company had fixed Rs9,700 fare per passenger. He neither denied nor confirmed reports about high fares being charged by the company's booking agents.
If passengers made booking in advance then they would get ticket on the prescribed rate, he said, adding media should investigate why other aviation companies did not operate flights for Parachinar.
The people of Kurram tribal region have been facing with numerous problems for the last couple of years owing to sectarian clashes and insecurity on Thall-Parachinar Road. Increase in prices of daily use items owing to blocked of road has also added to their miseries and financial woes. The recent attacks on passenger coaches on Thall-Parachinar Road have also put a question mark on the sustainability of the peace agreement.

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