Fliers were afraid that many seats would come under the option and exorbitant amounts would be charged

Air passengers can heave a sigh of relief in the wake of the civil aviation ministry’s announcement that airlines will have to limit their ‘preferred seats’— where passengers can be charged a fee over the ticket fare. In the last week of April, the government permitted scheduled airlines to charge passengers for a host of services including preferential seating, meals and checked-in baggage. Almost immediately, IndiGo charged Rs.500 for seats in row 1, 2 and 12 and 13.

D. Sudhakar Reddy of Air Passengers’ Association of India (APAI) said, “We wrote to the minister immediately seeking the limiting of the number of preferred seats since it may greatly affect air passengers, particularly those belonging to the middle income group. If it is not limited, then several passengers will be forced to pay through their nose. A maximum of 25 per cent of the seats should belong to the preferred category.” He observed that the excess fee charged by airlines may be exorbitant and has to be reduced.

P.A. Devanathan, an air passenger, said that he would not opt for a preferred seat as it may not be worth paying that much. “Economy class passengers like me are mindful of cost. So, there is no way I would pay more for a seat. Airlines are trying to find ways to fill usually unfilled seats. But, even that won’t work if they implement this,” he said.

Airlines should ideally charge a maximum of Rs.250 for a preferred seat and limit it to the first three rows, said an airline official.

“In a way, it is great that the government has decided to limit the number of such seats. Otherwise, passengers may be taken for a ride. Passengers belonging to the corporate sector, who constitute around 40 per cent of the total number of fliers, may not mind shelling out more. The rest of the bunch, if the number of seats under this option is not limited, may suffer,” he said.

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