Minister of Civil Aviation, India: Stop airlines from charging for musical instruments, irrespective of weight and size limits
Musicians and sports-people are ambassadors of our culture across the world. But instead of being supported by the airlines, we are being exploited by them!!! The Ministry of Civil Aviation recent directive of 'unbundling' of fares is ONLY a hog wash in the name of reducing fares.. It only means giving less service and facility for the flyer and charging more for giving what was normal earlier. Over these years, when did air fares ever reduce? Even so called low cost airlines charge as much as Air India or Jet! What can explain why the Ministry of Civil Aviation / DGCA has reduced Baggage allowance to a measly 15kgs when 20 kgs is the norm around the world?? For every kg above 15kgs, the airlines are charging upto Rs 250 per kg!! What exploitation & greed is this??? This hurts everyone who travels!! In addition, the DGCA has directed that we musicians and Sportspersons have to now pay a TAX of Rs 1000 for each musical instrument/ sports gear, no matter how small or light it be!! Even after charging that tax, the airlines take NO responsibility for the damage!! So this so called 'Special handling fee results in broken instruments- proof of which is in the attached photos and articles! http://www.mid-day.com/news/2013/may/160513-special-airline-fee-for-musical-instruments-hits-the-wrong-note.htm What’s even more outrageous is that the airlines have been charging this fee even before the official order from the DGCA. In the above video my friend Raghu Dixit was charged Rs. 4000 extra in Nov 2012, just because he was carrying a small case of bamboo flutes that weigh as much as a laptop!! Please sign my petition, spread the word to your friends and tell the Director General/ Ministry of Civil Aviation to scrap this outrageous TAX levied for carrying musical instruments and sports equipment and increase baggage allowance for all musicians/ dancers and sports people to 30 kgs, when they fly with any airline in India.
We musicians are ambassadors of our Indian culture across the world. Rather than be supportive, the airlines are exploiting us, by charging for musical instruments, when they are well within weight & dimension limits as prescribed by the airlines themselves!!! Why should we pay & get arm twisted like this?
To add insult to injury, the Ministry of Civil Aviation decided to 'unbundle' the airfares, thereby encouraging airlines to reduce check in baggage allowance to 15kgs and also charge Rs 1000 or more, for each musical instrument. Further, we will be charged Rs 200 to 250 (depending on the airline) for every kg of baggage in excess of 15kgs!!
As an example, this means that I now have to pay atleast Rs 5000 per flight for my Tablas to be checked in, i.e. Rs 10,000 for a round trip. This is ONLY for carrying a Musical instruement and does NOT even include personal belongings. With the current state of the economy, musicians are already suffering with regards to payments. Between slashed budgets for cultural events and such blatant exploitation by the airlines, how exactly are artists supposed to survive in such an environment?
Moreover, there seems to be no consistency in the application of these rules. We have to pay special handling charges which differ from airline to airline (sometimes these differ on a daily basis for the same airline).
Please see the following video of Spice Jet staff arguing with Musician Raghu Dixit and his group over a case of flutes. This video was taken in November, 2012, while the legislation was only passed in 2013. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lN6GGE3EVBA
Airlines in India have earlier shown a complete lack of respect for musical instruments. Ustad Amjad Ali Khan’s Sarod was damaged by Air India (http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2010-01-15/india/28142594_1_sarod-instrument-ustad-amjad-ali-khan) while Jet Airways also mishandled Amaan Ali Khan’s Sarod. http://articles.timesofindia.indiatimes.com/2011-12-25/mumbai/30556167_1_sarod-9w-conveyor-belt
These are just two examples, amongst various others, detailing the harrowing experiences that most musicians have gone through while travelling by airlines in India.
Just because we are musicians, should we be penalized?? Are we doing something wrong?
In this regard, I request you to kindly implement the following changes -
1. Revert to the earlier baggage allowance of 20 kilos instead of the proposed 15 kgs. Earlier, Air India used to actually allow 25 kilos of check in-baggage.
2. Abolish the ‘special handling charge’ (which seems to be arbitrarily levied depending on the airline) for musicians and sportsmen, as it is highly discriminatory. Please specify guidelines of weight and size for the same. Just charging for something just because it is a musical instrument or sporting equipment, irrespective of dimensions & weight, is completely discriminatory, exploitative and unacceptable.
3. Legislate a special check in baggage allowance for Musicians & Sports people, when travelling for work upto 30kgs. We are ambassadors of our rich cultural heritage around the world and surely deserve some support from the Government. It must be said that for a country that prides itself on it's culture and it's traditions, our decision makers have shown an appalling lack of concern or respect for either.
I have garnered immense support from musicians and music lovers from around the globe for this cause on my Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/1anuradhapal?fref=ts), and from the press (http://www.mid-day.com/news/2013/may/160513-special-airline-fee-for-musical-instruments-hits-the-wrong-note.htm)
We look up to the Governement for support and request you to immediately look into this matter and provide us with a consistent policy in this regard, so that we do not keep getting exploited in this manner.