As the Centre pushes to make air travel more appealing and affordable for passengers, airlines including national carrier Air India are now using ingenious ways to squeeze money out of travellers. One such almost unnecessary travel expense is seat selection fee. The brunt of this is faced most by families. Naturally, a family would want to sit together during a flight. But that ‘luxury’ comes at a premium.
Imagine if you go for a movie and your family has to sit on seats far apart from each other if you don’t pay them a seat selection fee. That would spoil the fun, wouldn’t it?
This heavy charge is levied mainly on international travel, but it is expected to be implemented throughout the domestic market as well. Seat selection fee is even imposed on middle seats. Apart from that, extra legroom seats draw more charges that increase the seat selection fee.
Furthermore, if you opt out of seat selection, it depends on the airline officials whether they will book tickets for you that put your family together or far apart on the plane. Even if seats are available together, you wouldn’t know for sure. It depends on them whether they choose to force the option of extra levy on you.
The provision that allows airlines to charge such a fee has been around for a few years now but its implementation was rare. Also, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation has till now not released a revised set of rules that govern how much airlines can charge for such ancillary services.
The aviation regulator put a cap on the baggage fee airlines can charge customers earlier this year. Airlines have looked towards seat selection fee, otherwise known as family fee, to boost their revenue. Air India and Jet Airways are already following the model rigorously and other carriers are expected to follow suit.
The Centre has come up with a slew of measures over the past couple of years to promote air travel with measures like visa on arrival in many countries, reduced air fares, multiple incentives for carriers to connect lower-tier cities etc.
But airlines seem decided to use non-ticket sources to boost revenues. Earlier this year, Indigo announced that families will not be allotted seats in premium extra legroom rows that are not exit row seats for a premium. The seats were called quiet zones.
India’s aviation sector is expected to grow at massive rates over the next decade and the government has thus eased a lot of regulations to increase competition and make air-travel affordable. The new civil aviation policy doesn’t speak much on ancillary services and airlines are making good use of this loophole.