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More fliers pay for add-on services as airfare dips

mumbai Updated: Aug 29, 2016 12:32 IST
Soubhik Mitra

Frayed nerves have calmed and more fliers are willing to spend extra for such frills(HT File photo)

Many frequent fliers were wary of being fleeced, when in 2013, the civil aviation ministry allowed domestic airlines to charge for frills such as pre-booked meals, seats with more leg room, and extra baggage.

Three years on, frayed nerves have calmed, and more fliers are willing to spend extra for such frills, booking patterns show.

The travel portal Ixigo said one in four customers buys frills while booking tickets. The number of fliers is growing at more than 20%, and so is the section of fliers who want these frills, said Himanshu Periwal, vice-president, (growth), Ixigo. “Year-on-year, fliers seeking paid frills have increased by at least 30%. Incentivising these ancillary products has further fuelled the demand,” added Periwal.

For instance, Air Asia India announced in April discounts up to 20% on pre-booked meals, he added.

What has also made these add-ons popular is the overall drop in average airfares. This means separately-charged services are more affordable, travel operators said.

“The number of Indians who want frills has gone up by 15%, as people look for conveniences such as pre-booked meals and pre-booked extra baggage, and both come at reasonable costs with airfares dropping,” said John Nair, head of business travel at Cox and Kings Ltd.

Buying meals with flight tickets is the most common frill fliers are adding.“Travellers usually do not pre-book excess baggage, unless they are very sure they will travel heavy. It’s popular with students, newlyweds and working folk shifting cities,” said Sharat Dhall, president, travel portal

He said meal bookings are common among corporate fliers. “Priority check-in is relatively new and is yet to gain momentum.”

While seats with more leg room, meals and fragile baggage were among the first few items to be put on sale, airlines have now added a new service.

Two days ago, Jet Airways started allowing economy class fliers to skip check-in queues by paying a small charge of Rs400. Last year, SpiceJet had offered a similar service for Rs299, which guaranteed a ride irrespective of last-minute flight cancellations.

The budget airline’s revenues from such frills jumped from 7% to 15%, Ajay Singh, the chairman and managing director had told HT at an aviation summit held in Mumbai this January.