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OTAs accused of ‘black marketing’; Cleartrip calls it ‘sensationalist reporting’

“Online travel portals have reportedly been found to have raised fares to astronomical levels by means of ‘black marketing and hoarding’ (during the recent Jet Airways’ pilots’ strike),” reports Times of India quoting a top aviation ministry official who has not been identified.

“Online travel portals have reportedly been found to have raised fares to astronomical levels by means of ‘black marketing and hoarding’ (during the recent Jet Airways’ pilots’ strike),” reports Times of India quoting a top aviation ministry official who has not been identified. However, Hrush Bhatt, co-founder, Cleartrip.com, strongly refutes the allegation and has described the so-called news story as a “sloppy, lazy and sensationalist reporting”.

“Every airline sells bulk tickets to portals in the beginning of the month at cheaper rates and gets the payment cash down. This arrangement is to have liquidity. During our probe, we found that tickets sold at Rs 5-7,000 in bulk rates to portals have been sold for up to Rs 20,000,” the unnamed ‘top aviation ministry official’ has been quoted by Times of India as saying.

According to the report, “A shocked Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is starting a constant monitoring of fares by both airlines and travel portals.” ToI further reports that “Since monitoring alone won’t be enough, the ministry is planning to bring travel portals under the ambit of Rule 135 of Aircraft Rules, 1937, that would allow the DGCA to regulate their fare policy.”

However, in a blog post titled, ‘The black market that wasn’t’, Hrush Bhatt of Cleartrip.com writes, “This journalist is clearly from another planet; a planet where editors allow stories to be published even when they don’t contain a single fact. The journalist has several quotes in the story from ‘aviation ministry officials’, but each quote is anonymous. The journalist also alleges that online travel companies pre-purchase tickets from airlines, something none of the online travel companies actually do.”

“The journalist does not interview or name even a single customer that was offered or purchased these ‘astronomical’ fares. Neither does the journalist present any research or evidence that shows price comparisons on online sites, nor is any particular online site named in the article,” Bhatt adds.

Hrush Bhatt has also published a graph that shows the average price for one-way tickets sold by Cleartrip.com over the last two weeks. According to the graph, the average price for the time period is Rs 2,829; with a high of Rs 2,952 and a low of Rs 2,747. “The actual numbers are a far cry from the journalist’s imaginary Rs 20,000 levels,” Bhatt concludes.

[Source: Cleartrip Blog]
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