Air India Express has begun charging for choice of seats, including the middle row, even as the civil aviation ministry wants airlines to limit the number of such preferred seats.
The low-cost arm of the state-run Air India Ltd flies an all-Boeing 737 fleet and gets 75 per cent of its business from Kerala. It operates 200 weekly flights, mostly to the Gulf region.
The airline offers free snacks, but has now decided to charge for seats following the decision to unbundle services.
The carrier’s sales team wrote to travel agents on Monday it would levy Rs 100-400 as a preference seat charge on domestic flights and Rs 200-750 on international flights. Pre-booking the middle row seat will cost Rs 100 and Rs 200 on domestic and international flights, respectively.
“Air India Express primarily caters to migrant labour traffic and charging for seats will make air travel expensive,” said a travel consultant.
The Air Passenger Association of India had complained to the civil aviation ministry about the unbundling of services.
“Henceforth, if three persons have to sit together, they will have to pay in addition to the ticket fare. I have asked the ministry the justification for this decision. How will it lower overall fares? India does not have a genuine low-cost model. Abroad, low-cost airlines charge 30-40 per cent less than full service airlines, but it is not the case in India,” said D Sudhakara Reddy, national president of APAI.
Earlier this month, the government allowed airlines to charge for seats, meals, use of lounges and check-in baggage. Airlines have reduced the free baggage allowance from 20 kg to 15 kg, following the government decision.
IndiGo had been the first off the block to levy an additional charge of Rs 200 for each window and aisle seats on its domestic flights and Rs 300 for these preferential seats on international flights.
The airline had levied a fee of Rs 100 on middle seats on its domestic flights and Rs 200 on international routes.
However, adverse public reaction and government intervention have led IndiGo to withdraw the fee for pre-selection of the middle row. The airline would, however, continue to levy a fee for pre-booking middle seats in the front row and on rows adjacent to emergency exits which offer more leg room to passengers.
“The feedback of our fliers is of utmost importance to us and as a result, with immediate effect, IndiGo will not charge for pre-booking of any of its middle seats (except for rows 1, 12 and 13),” IndiGo said in a statement.
IndiGo had been the first off the block to levy an additional charge of Rs 200 for each window and aisle seats on its domestic flights and Rs 300 for these preferential seats on international flights. The airline had levied a fee of Rs 100 on middle seats on its domestic flights and Rs 200 on international routes.