Airlines to soon charge for check-in bag, preferred seat

Our Bureau New Delhi | Updated on April 29, 2013 Published on April 29, 2013


Ticket cost to vary with services used; seen as new revenue source for airlines

Domestic air fare will now depend on the service you want. While checking-in a bag or getting that preferred seat will cost more, you need to pay just the base price for no-frills travel be it on a full service or a low-cost airline.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation today allowed five domestic airlines — Air India, Jet Airways, IndiGo, SpiceJet and Go Air — to charge for facilities they provide flyers. That is, passengers will need to pay for check-in baggage, in-flight meal/snacks/soft drinks, carrying sports gear/musical instruments, or using the airline lounge. The only exception is water, which will be made available free of charge, as is the practice now.

But the latest move could also see the cost of travel come down for some. For example a passenger booking well in advance and travelling without any frills on a low-cost airline will be able to travel inexpensively. Called “unbundled services”, the charges for these will be in addition to the base cost of the ticket. However, it is not yet clear whether passengers on full-service airlines such as Air India and Jet Airways will have to pay more for a meal as this is included in the price of the ticket now.

Currently, no airline charges for checking in a bag. Also, Jet Airways and Air India do not charge for blocking a seatHowever, a passenger in IndiGo Plus can block a seat along with meal by paying Rs 650.

The riders

The Civil Aviation Ministry has said that passengers should be given the opportunity to choose the services they want and pay only for them. And, the charges will be fixed irrespective of the base price of the air ticket, and the airlines need to announce them well in advance.

The airlines will have to show the cost of unbundled services on their Web sites and online travel portals.

The latest move, in a way, seeks to legalise what is being done surreptitiously by some of the airlines even while opening a new source for revenue for airlines like Air India and Jet.

This practice has been in vogue in the US and elsewhere for some years, with airlines, low-cost or full-service, charging for checking in a bag.

“We looked at practices of various airlines, including Ryan Air, before coming up with the latest rules. The new rules will help airlines face up to competition from AirAsia,” Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh told newspersons.

Air Asia and many global low-cost airlines derive a chunk of their revenue from charging for such services.

The new rules will come into effect after the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation issues a Civil Aviation Requirement. “The DGCA should be able to notify the new rules in about a week. The DGCA will not regulate what airlines charge for these services,” a senior DGCA official said.

Terming the move as a “reforms measure”, Amber Dubey, Partner and Head Aviation at KPMG, said the latest move will open a new revenue stream for the airline industry and allow flyers who do not want to use these services to fly at a comparatively cheaper fare.


Published on April 29, 2013
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