I’m pretty sure the low-fare airlines in India are already set with product propositions as to how they will charge for the various propositions such as checked bags and sale of food in-flight. Like I wrote on Monday, the Indian aviation regulator did permit unbundling of fares, which included preferential seating, checked bags and other services, a full list available here.
On a closer inspection, it does look like this stuff is at least a couple of months away, even if airlines start implementing systematic changes now. I would imagine a whole lot of this strategy will want to leverage on the internet to build in the services into the ticket, i.e., you buy it online to ensure that you don’t have to wait or pay at the airport.
If not, I see that a the self-service check-in counters will need to become more advanced to be able to accept credit cards/debit cards as well to sell preferential seats and baggage allowance. Also, the confusion that will ensue for the passengers on airports will be massive, since a lot of manual processes will be required and average processing times will go up.
But lets take a look at what will work and what won’t work soon.
a) Preferential Seating: I am looking at you Indigo, and I am thinking, you will try to sell almost all window and aisle seats as preferential seats maybe. Because you’re so money minded. I’d also expect SpiceJet, Go-Air to follow suit. For the full service Jet Airways, expect to pay for the first few rows and the emergency exits, if not more. The other way of doing this, like some other airlines do, is to block off the entire front section of the economy seating of each plane as preferential seats, and get people to pay for that.
It may be the time when some airlines could look to spend some money and get Premium Economy sections in their planes as well for domestic as well as regional routes. But who goes first is not something I can guess yet.
b) Meal/Snack/Drink charges: If the regulator allowed for this now, how were airlines already selling food on the planes since the past 10 years eh? Anyways, the changes I expect are to Air India first, who will be withdrawing meals sooner than later. Expect to buy more overpriced food in the air soon.
c) Airline Lounges: Lets step back a bit and see who is in a position to impose this charge… Air India. No airline in India has their own lounges at airports except for Air India, and they are the only ones who can perhaps now on sell airport lounge access. For the rest, I assume they will continue to provide lounge access to premium passengers without a charge, and no more. I don’t foresee for instance Jet Airways selling access to a Plaza Premium Lounge in Delhi, for a small cut on the access fee.
d) Check-in baggage: I expect the low-fare carriers to be the first off the block here, though I won’t expect a weight-allowance here. The piece system is much better since it brings in efficiency, and I’d expect airlines to move to piece system as well if they are planning to charge for check-in baggage. (you don’t want to be putting 3 seven kg bags on a plane while you can put one 20 kg bag, right?)
Are any of you readers expecting anything different? I’m happy to hear your views.
- India, welcome to unbundled fares!
- Air India advised to axe in-flight meals
- Get ready to pay for better meals on Jet Airways, and lounge access, and preferential seating