The Ministry of Finance, Government of India, has mandated all the central government employees and all the ministries to book air tickets meant for official work only from three designated travel agents. In a workplace memorandum, the Division of Expenditure under the Finance Ministry said that the decision has been taken in view of disinvestment of Air India. The order comes into effect from today.
The official order mentioned that “In all cases of air travel, where the government of India bears the cost of air passage, air tickets shall be purchased from the three authorised journey brokers – Balmer Lawrie, Ashok Travels & Tours and IRCTC.” In an earlier notification issued by the Expenditure Division in 2009, the government had mentioned that for air travel where it bears the cost for both domestic and international, together with LTC, the journey should be taken on Air India only and air tickets are to be purchased directly from the airline.
Balmer Lawrie is a government corporation PSU under the ownership of Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Government of India whose one of the six business unit handles travel and vacations as well. Whereas Ashok Travels & Tours is the tour operator working under the aegis of India Tourism Development Corporation (ITDC), another Government of India undertaking. The Indian Railway Catering and Tourism Corporation (IRCTC) under the Ministry of Railways is well know to everyone in the industry. The three travel agents have been asked to provide an option of booking tickets directly online apart from providing the same facility offline through a dedicated staff.
The three travel agents are also expected to provide the government employees ‘best available fare’ on the date of booking on the basis of tour programme. The ministries and employees are free to choose any of the three agents for bookings as the decision will rely on the standard of service offered, further amenities such as extra baggage, cancellation, and rescheduling facility. No agency charges will be paid to any of the three travel agents. In case of unavoidable circumstances, when the booking of ticket is done from unauthorised travel agent or website the relevant authorities are authorised to grant relaxations.
Post its decision to disinvest and sell Air India to the TATA Group, the government had earlier asked the ministries and departments to clear dues of the debt-laden national carrier as soon as possible and only purchase future tickets in cash only. The disinvestment process has been delayed for a month and is now expected to be completed by January-end instead of the last week of December 2021.