Air travel to cost more as airlines freed to charge extra for services

Air travel to cost more as airlines freed to charge extra for services

NEW DELHI: Air travel is all set to cost more as Indian carriers — like their foreign counterparts — are now free to charge passengers extra for almost every service.

The aviation ministry on Monday allowed airlines to ‘unbundle’ services —meaning charge extra for blocking seats in advance, check-in baggage, and carrying sports and musical equipment or high value baggage. The list of items allowed for extra charge by aviation minister Ajit Singh will be reviewed in six months.

Fallout of this order could be reduced free check-in weight. Domestic flyers are presently allowed to check-in 20 kg and airlines have been planning to reduce this to 15 kg. Airlines have been planning to hike excess baggage charge too, which means a double whammy for flyers.While almost all low cost carriers (LCC) and some full service ones were in favour of reducing free baggage limit, they were waiting for DGCA to first allow pre-booking of seat charges.

Airlines have now been allowed to allow economy class passengers use their lounges for a fee apart from the common practice of onboard sale of food and beverages, except drinking water in cups (not the bottled variety) which has to be given free. Airlines are going to almost immediately start charging for pre-booking of seats as they had started doing so about three years backed and were stopped by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in early 2012. They had then petitioned the DGCA to be allowed to resume charges for this facility. After keeping the global example in mind, the regulator is learnt to have permitted this charge.

“Our application for resuming pre-booking seat charges was lying with aviation authorities for years. When AirAsia’s application for starting an airline here was cleared, we knew the move will get a push as foreign LCCs are famous for unbundling services and charging extra for everything. AirAsia on its international flights does not allow any free check-in baggage. Now the global LCC model will truly come to India,” said an airline official, emphasizing that all carriers need to boost their ancillary revenues to keep base fares competitive.

An aviation ministry statement said unbundling services and charging for them extra “has become a necessary aspect of exercising more control over operational costs and running a successful airline.”The ministry has asked airlines to have fixed charge for services and not change them like airfares for different flights. The DGCA shall monitor the charges. Airlines will have to file details of services to be unbundled and their charges to the DGCA. – TOI