As part of the government's latest austerity measures, the finance ministry has asked all ministries and departments to book their tickets directly from the national carrier Air India and other airlines in order to cut down on the commissions charged by various travel agents.
In a memo from the expenditure department, North Block has directed that "All ministries/departments are again advised that as far as possible, air tickets on government account may be obtained directly from Air India, airlines."
The memo added that only if tickets could not be obtained directly, officials were authorised to book via three travel agencies – Balmer Lawrie & Co, Ashok Travels, and Indian Railways Catering and Tourism Corp (IRCTC).
The three agencies are allowed to levy commission of Rs 100 per domestic ticket and Rs 300 per international ticket.
The move is part of government's austerity measure to restrict the fiscal deficit to the budgeted figure of 4.8% of GDP in 2013-14.
The government had also directed that the size of delegations going abroad should be kept at "absolute minimum,” and put a freeze on fresh appointments, banned holding of its conferences in 5-star hotels and stopped officials from executive class air travel. Finance minister P Chidambaram employed similar measures last fiscal year, which helped India contain its fiscal deficit at 4.9% of GDP against some private estimates of 6.1%