The Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) is considering a proposal to allow airlines to charge for cabin baggage. Fliers who are not using the overhead bin will be rewarded with incentives (cheaper fares). Just last month, India’s two largest airlines, Jet and Indigo, announced that they are reducing the free checked baggage allowance on domestic flights from 20 kg to 15 kg. Extra baggage will be charged at Rs 250 a kg.
The Air Passengers Association of India has condemned the policy, alleging airlines are trying to make unreasonable profits at the cost of the consumer. It’s true that shrinking bottom lines and sheer desperation have made aviation companies very creative when it comes to generating revenue. Many of us are still stuck in the past not so long ago, when we took a meal and leg room totally for granted on a flight. It’ll take time to mentally adjust to the fact that even the smallest of entitlements while flying are gone forever. Now, short of the oxygen we’re breathing mid-air, pretty much everything else will come at a price.
If one thinks about it, the pay for only what you use model is completely fair. Consider the business traveller who does a day trip between cities. When everything is included in the price of the ticket, you pay for checked luggage even though your personal belongings are not taking up any space. There should be some monetary compensation to travelling light since you’re saving costs for the airline. Since the Delhi airport became so nice, many of us prefer to pack a Subway salad or a pizza before boarding, so we don’t want to be charged for a meal we don’t intend to eat. In the future it’s bound to happen, we’ll have the option to save money by sitting in a middle seat, and boarding and disembarking last. When passengers are allowed flexibility in how they choose to spend, it ultimately permits more people to fly for less. Like in everything else, demand and supply decides rates — the same way you pay more for parking at malls on weekends or high season pricing for a vacation around New Year’s.
According to http://www.seatguru.com, extra legroom is what passengers value most and are willing to pay extra for. Recently, on a Go Air flight, I noticed the first two rows were completely empty though the rest of the plane was packed. They were marketed as “business” seats, cost Rs 9,000 more though the colour and configuration of seats were exactly the same. If there was more space, it wasn’t apparent to the naked eye. Clearly nobody thought it was worth their while to pay so much more just to be at the front of the plane or be served a sandwich first. A business ticket has to have more frills and the airline has to make a bigger effort to pamper someone spending that much more.
The positive of this new way of pricing tickets: it’ll force us into thinking — and packing — like minimalists. In the 19th century, suitcases were made of leather and the aristocracy would travel with up to eight hat boxes. In the 21st century, author Lee Child’s iconic character Jack Reacher carries only a toothbrush, chucking clothes and buying new ones as he moves from one place to another. After a tedious flight who hasn’t gazed enviously at people bouncing off to the exit gate with their handbag, while you wait interminably at the luggage belt? Now that it pays to carry less, more of us will experience the joys of moving around unencumbered. We don’t need half the paraphernalia we end up carting around. The trade-off is you must be willing to live with less. The mobility, makes it worth it.