Taking a cue from international airlines that charge extra if family members want to sit together onboard a flight, Indian airlines too are slowly but steadily adopting and implementing the measure as a revenue generating means.
The 'seat selection fee' or 'family fee' — as it is often called by other airlines across the globe — debuted in India this year when state-owned carrier Air India introduced the concept in May. Now, private carrier Jet Airways revised its seat selection fee recently, as reported by the Times of India.
For example, if a family of three board a flight from Mumbai to London, the extra charge of sitting together would come up to Rs 9,000 on an Air India flight. However, on a Jet Airways plane, the cost would be about Rs 4,500. Under the new rule, the middle row seats will also be charged.
If the family chooses bulkhead or exit row seats, then the surcharge will rise to Rs 10,500, according to the report.
Ever since Indian aviation regulator DGCA put a limit on baggage fees and cancellation fees this year, airlines in India have now turned to seat selection fee to boost their ancillary revenues from non-ticket sources, which includes preferred seating, buying food, excess baggage fees, etc.
Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at StrategicAero Research, told International Business Times, India that the move smacks of a desperate ancillary revenue generation tactic. "Airlines are desperate to generate ancillary revenue however they can. Short of charging people for breathing, the move to price up family seating is not new per se, but it is becoming a sharper way to increase revenue," he said.
Ahmad further said that "domestically too, passengers can opt for road/rail over air transport because costs are significantly lower, so it's a cat-and-mouse game to see who lowers fares to entice customers and then sting them with a seating fee."
In November, Indian airline carriers flew 8.97 million passengers, marking a growth of 22.45 percent over the corresponding month last year.