The government’s move to unbundle certain charges collected as part of air tickets could make flying more value for money and also prompt airlines to offer exclusive personalised services, said industry experts.
“This move can make base fares complete value for money. A person travelling light will not be charged the same as the flier with a lot of heavy bags,” said Amber Dubey, partner and head of aviation at global consultancy firm KPMG.
Airlines might also offer services such as airport lounges, chauffeurs, personalised in-flight entertainment devices, gourmet meals and facilities such as blankets, pillows and toiletries to fliers who are willing to pay an additional fee. “You pay as you go, and the government will adopt a hands-off approach as long as certain ground rules are not violated,” Dubey said.
On Tuesday, none of the domestic airlines were clear about how and when they would detach the charges. “It is too early. We have begun working on pricing different products,” said a Spicejet spokesperson. An Indigo airlines spokesperson said passengers would have to decide what paid-for facilities they want to use before travel, but was unable to give a timeline on when this would be introduced.
Experts said the ancillary revenues could be a lifeline for future sustainability of these carriers. “Ancillary revenues have increased by 5% for US carriers last year and is 20% to 30% of their total revenue,” said Debayan Sen, India practise leader with Landrum and Brown World Services, an aviation consultancy firm.
“The concept of giving passengers the option to choose their offerings is putting the power in the hands of the consumer.”
Experts felt it was too early to worry about the policy and airfares.
“Such experiments are common in a developing economy. If they turn out to be passenger unfriendly, they will run out of takers. There is no reason to panic,” said Gurbhachan Bhatura, director general with Federation of Aviation and Sustainable Tourism.