New Delhi, January 19: Members of Parliament now want their seats to be upgraded to business class on flights that have vacant seats in the premium cabin. The proposal was put forward by members of a House panel on consumer affairs, a person familiar with the proceedings said on Thursday.

Panel chairman and Telugu Desam Party MP JC Divakar Reddy asked civil aviation secretary Rajiv Nayan Choubey to issue a circular on these guidelines to all domestic airlines.  While Air India, Jet Airways and Vistara offer business class seats in domestic flights, airlines such as Spice Jet and Indigo sell seats with extra leg space at a premium, the Hindustan Times reported.

“Why don’t you send a circular saying that, on identification, if there is a seat vacant in the business class, MPs should be provided a seat?” Reddy told Choubey at the meeting of the standing committee on food, consumer affairs and public distribution. Backing Reddy, Samajwadi Party MP Ravi Prakash Verma suggested that the Civil Aviation Ministry should issue an order and send a copy to the panel.

Explaining the rationale behind the demand, a member of the panel said, “We received specific complaints about MPs being denied business class seats despite vacancies. Once, there was a complaint that even after issuing a business class boarding class, the airline asked the MP at the last moment to sit in the economy section.”

An MP is entitled to 34 free air journeys in a year, can be accompanied by a companion, and can travel business class. “MPs, however, travel much more during a year and often they require to fly for political engagements or personal work,” said a member of the Lok Sabha.

Voicing against the demand, CPI(M)’s MP Md Salim said, “A Parliament panel should work steadfastly for the service of the people, and not self-service for MPs.”

The question of MPs being allotted vacant business class seats had first cropped up at a meeting of the parliamentary panel on civil aviation in 2017.