Virtually adopting the U.S. model of imposing extra fee on air passengers, the Civil Aviation Ministry on Monday allowed airlines to charge extra money from passengers for preferred seats, check-in baggage and meals, among other things.
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh has decided to permit scheduled airlines to unbundle certain services and to charge fees for them separately. The services include snacks, drinks (barring drinking water), use of airline lounges, and transport of sports equipment, musical instruments and valuable baggage which have higher carrier liability, says an official statement.
This practice was adopted in 2008 by some U.S. carriers which were facing a financial crunch. Their decision to charge money for even the first checked-in baggage received flak from travellers but the practice still continues, generating revenue worth millions of dollars to the airlines.
Monday’s statement said the Minister's decision was based on the recommendations of an independent consultant, who opined that unbundling of services became necessary for exercising more control over operational costs and running a successful airline. The objective was to facilitate airlines to offer low base fare for price sensitive travellers and, at the same time, provide a choice to service seekers at a price.
The decision would allow passengers to benefit from lower base fares and customise the product to better suit their requirements and budget, while allowing airlines to develop more sustainable operations in an environment of wafer-thin margins, the statement noted.
The airlines would have to file details of services to be unbundled and fees to be charged to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. “DGCA may not fix fee for unbundled services but shall have the right to intervene and stop charging if regulatory principles are violated by the airlines.”
The statement said the airlines would have to maintain transparency and inform the travelling public and agents of what fee they were charging and for which of the unbundled services. The charges would be a fixed amount and announced well in advance by the airlines. These shall not vary with the base fare for a particular flight. Customers should be given the opportunity to pick and choose amenities they want to receive and pay for.