Seat selection charges — new tool for India’s airlines to fleece passengers

Being in airlines business is a really tough one. Trying to maintain profits in this business is an even tougher challenge. All this makes it an absolute necessity for these airliners to find “innovative” sources of revenues. Airlines in India are no exception and I was appalled to find their latest innovation in charging customers for not providing an value added service.

Flying in India

Recently I had booked a domestic flight from Hyderabad to Bangalore. Having to travel with an infant and another young child, I decided to go with web checkin prior to reaching the airport. Two goals for web checkin:

  1. Avoid the long and chaotic morning queues at the airport checkin counters
  2. Get adjacent seats for everyone travelling together

When I went to the web portal for Indigo airlines and tried to block my seats, I found to my dismay that 80% of the available seats had an additional charge of at least Rs 200, for every seat I wanted to select. Disgusted with the greed of these airline companies, I chose the last row where there was no premium to select seats.

The rot goes deep

When I checked with Indigo through Twitter, they confirmed this is as planned and approved by Government of India. Yet another shocker.

It is unbelievable that an airline is allowed to charge customers for a service that they were supposed to provide hassle free in the first place.

How would you feel if your newspaper guy fixes the price of daily newspaper based on when you want it to be delivered? Rs 6 if you want the newspaper at 7 AM. Rs 3 if you want it by 10 AM! Howzzaaat!

I being a hopeful person, decided to actually check with Ministry of Civil Aviation and find out what is going on. Raised a complaint at Somewhere in the background, the complaint got forwarded to DGCA who then sent it t Indigo. Now, Indigo sends me an email with the detailed explanation on the loot they are now permitted officially (since June 2016). Here is new loot plan:

It is all there for everyone to read. 60% of the flight will be covered by this premium seating program. Sad.

If you cannot solve it, then make it worse

Step into any major Indian airport during morning hours — the checkin counters are a sight to behold. Absolute chaos. This is a daily mess that Airports Authority of India, DGCA and Airlines have unleashed on passengers. A web checkin was supposed to be the only option available to passengers to reduce their wait time at these airports. And now, they want to cash in on the pain that they created in the first place.

Cheap air fares is such a fake thing. MoCA, DGCA and Airlines — they all want us to believe the airline are cheap. Here are the additional costs no one bothers to include in the overall cost of air travel:

  1. Rs 900 one way tax charge to the airport in most cities
  2. Rs 200+ per seat for web checkin
  3. Rs 500 if you want a faster checkin at the airport (Indigo calls this as “Fast Forward”)
  4. Rs 200 for a plate of Idly or Paratha at the airport terminal
  5. Rs 500 as user development fees at some of the airports

Lets hope such horrible pricing policies are not encouraged and passengers protest more to name and shame these airlines. If airlines want to generate more revenue, do it by creating products and services that give value to customers. Exploiting your passengers is not the right way to go about this.

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