Ancillary fares have been the rage around the airline world for a while. In India, airlines got the permission to charge for ancillary services in 2013. Since then, all the no-frills carriers have been charging for all the extra services and have made a killing out of it.
The full-service carriers have joined the party as well. Jet Airways has been charging for seat selection through 12 hours out of take-off. Air India has recently dipped their toes in the market, starting to charge for advance reservation of emergency exit and bulkhead seats in economy on USA flights. On other flights, however, seat selection was free except for Emergency Exit and Bulkhead seats again.
However, monetisation will change now. From April 1, if you pre-book a window or aisle seat on Air India’s domestic or international network, be prepared to pay extra. The airline will now be charging for advance booking of these seats.
I tried booking a ticket on the Delhi – Mumbai route, and like you can see, all the yellowed out seats are the ones which will be chargeable for pre-assignment.
When I tried selecting a preferred seat: I was given this pop-up!
You will be able to make a paid selection of the window and aisle seat till two hours before departure. You can pay for the seat via booking offices or the call centre. The airline has also launched a site with OptionTown where you can prepurchase these seats online.
If you cancel your flight 48 hours prior to departure, or if there is a schedule change or disruption, you will be able to get a full refund. I’ve not been able to get the full details out on pricing because I don’t have a live booking on Air India right now to test this, but it varies per sector. For instance, on Delhi-Singapore you’d pay INR 450 for a window or aisle seat, but Chennai – Dubai you’d pay INR 300 for these seats. Colombo – Chennai, which is a very short flight, you would pay INR 150 for this pre-reservation.
Air India’s approach is clearly very different as compared to IndiGo and Jet Airways who usually would leave some seats in the aft section for free allocation. This is an approach closer to GoAir.
Air India is giving you lesser and lesser reasons to look at them, becoming more commercial just like the other airlines. They turned their domestic meal service all vegetarian last year and are now charging for seats. However, they still give a generous baggage allowance of 25 Kgs which is something that works for those who travel heavy.
What do you think about the new changes to Air India and would you be willing to pay for a seat on the aircraft on Air India?