Pay more to sit close to your kin on a flight
- Seat selection fee made its debut in India this year
- This fee has become a source of revenue for the airlines as cancellation and baggage fee
The ‘seat selection fee’ or ‘family fee’, as it’s called by different airlines round the world, made its debut over eight years ago, but in India it’s only this year that this fee has emerged in a ruthless avatar.
While Air India introduced the fee in May, private carrier Jet Airways revised its seat selection fee recently.
Currently, for a family of three on board a flight from, say Mumbai to London, the additional one-way cost of sitting together would come to Rs 9,000 on Air India. It would be Rs 4,500 on Jet Airways, and if the bulkhead/exit row seats with more legroom are chosen, the fee would soar by Rs 10,500. Even the middle seats are charged.
In a circular sent to travel agents on December 12, it has listed a comprehensive seat selection fee chart which charges different fees depending not just on the destination, but also the month and date of travel.
“On flights between India and the Middle East, and Asean countries, the categories are high season, peak season and other months. It’s evident that when the revenue they earned from baggage fees and cancellation fees came down, Jet increased the seat selection fee,” said an aviation consultant, requesting anonymity.
After the Indian aviation regulator, DGCA, put a cap on baggage fees and cancellation fees this year, airlines have turned to seat selection fee to raise their ancillary revenue from non-ticket sources, such as baggage fees, preferred seat, food bought on board, etc.
Sudhakara Reddy of Air Passengers Association of India, a consumer rights body, said: “The DGCA should carry out a comparative study on the seat selection fees charged by airlines in other countries. But it has not yet come out with the revised guidelines on all the charges that airlines can levy for unbundled services (ancillary revenue sources). They should put the guidelines on their website for the passenger to refer to readily.”