An air passenger body has threatened to drag the civil aviation ministry to court over its new policy that permits airlines to unbundle airfares.
Air Passengers Association of India (APAI), a non-profit body formed by frequent fliers, wrote to civil aviation minister Ajit Singh on Friday asking his office to explain the logic behind this. “How can the ministry take a decision that pinches fliers’ pockets without discussing it with us?” said Sudhakar Reddy, national president, APAI.
The ministry allowed airlines to charge separately on services such as check-in baggage, seat preference and on-board meals a fortnight ago, inviting criticism from air travellers.
Citing case studies abroad, the ministry claimed that the move could coax airlines to reduce base fares. But fliers debunked their theory, saying it was an “unfair comparison”.
The letter to the minister (a copy of which is available with HT) stated that no US carrier charges fliers for preferential seating, check-in baggage above 15 kilogram or meals. The letter added that only a handful of American airlines charge fliers for window or aisle seats, and all of them provide free snacks.
“Comparing practices prevailing in the US is unfair for a developing country like ours where about 30 to 35% passengers are first-time fliers, or are uneducated,” he added.
The association claimed that though most European low-cost airlines adopt this revenue model, it does not work in India. “Even if airlines such as Indigo, Spicejet and GoAir call themselves low-cost carriers, their fares are similar to that of full service carriers,” added Reddy.
Last week Air India and Jet Airways reduced the free baggage limit from 20kg to 15kg. Both airlines now charge Rs250 for every extra kilogram. Indigo Airlines began charging domestic fliers Rs500 and international fliers Rs800 for seats with better leg room.