Private airlines in India are choosing not to use aerobridges for boarding and deboarding passengers to save money, a Parliamentary committee said on Monday, reported PTI.

An aerobridge is a moveable tunnel that connects airport buildings to aircraft for boarding or deboarding passengers. Airlines have to pay the airport for using aerobridge facilities.

In 2018, the Ministry of Civil Aviation had issued a circular directing all Indian airlines to use an aerobridge, if available, for boarding and deboarding passengers for their convenience, reported The Hindu.

In its report tabled before the Rajya Sabha during the Budget Session, the panel on Tuesday said that the airlines were charging passengers for aerobridge facilities but not using it. Elderly passengers have been forced to use the stairs to board and deboard the flights.

“The committee deplores this apathetic and unreasonable attitude of the private airlines and strongly recommends that its circular on the aforesaid subject may be strictly enforced,” the Parliamentary Committee on Transport, Tourism and Culture, led by Bharatiya Janata Party MP TG Venkatesh, said.

The panel recommended that the civil aviation ministry should conduct regular surprise checks to ensure compliance of their 2018 circular.

“In case there is a default, the concerned private airlines should be penalised,” the committee said.

Stating that different airlines were charging varied fares for the same distance and duration, the panel asked the Union government to ensure that the passengers are “not fleeced in the garb of commercialisation”, reported the Deccan Herald.

It also described the airlines’ decision to charge extra money for selecting seats as “arbitrary and unjustifiable”.

The committee agreed that the civil aviation sector grows in an open market and private players should be given a free hand. However, it said that the Aircraft Rules, 1937, specifically mentions that the fares should be reasonable and should maintain reasonable profit.

“In the above context, the committee feels that the reply of the ministry stating that air travel is purely a contractual matter between the airline and the passenger, is not at all justified,” it said. “The committee is of the opinion that a balance also must be maintained between commercial interests of the airlines and the interests of the passengers.”

The panel also objected to airports having “very expensive” food outlets.

It asked stakeholders to consider providing a “small complimentary water bottle keeping in view the tradition of the country to give the highest regard to guests and offer water on arrival” as well as a “small packet of biscuits” free of cost to every passenger.