Air India will charge for Seat Selection from April 1

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.

a group of airplanes on a runway 

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.

a chart of chairs with numbers

When I tried selecting a preferred seat: I was given this pop-up!

a screenshot of a phone

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?

About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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  1. Ajay u are cheaper pax as compared to me for crying of AISLE seats and WINDOW seats beggar u seem to be men

  2. Sayan u seem to be asshole actually it should be implemented before only charging of AISLE seats and WINDOW seats.
    Bcoz i had seen pax are idiots they have their brains in knees.

  3. Star Gold and have flown AI about 40 times in the last 24 months. Have never had an issue with free allocation of exit row (at airport) and bulkhead (online check-in or airport) up until now.
    Flew DEL-PNQ this week, was automatically assigned last row in economy during online check-in. Asked for exit row or bulkhead at the airport and was told that it would be chargeable, even for Star Gold.
    Very disappointing experience…

  4. Air India is trying to squeeze every possible penny out of its passengers, however not realising that by losing passenger loyalty, it’s looking at 1-time customers, which will directly affect their bottom line and will definitely not help in their bankruptcy. Les’s said the better about their customer service, because there is no such thing in air India.
    Lastly, they should be removed from the star alliance group as they are obviously headed towards a low cost airline route.

  5. Can I get free seat selection during web check-in? Or do I have to go to the check-in counter to get seats assigned?

  6. AI is scraping the bottom of the barrel now.
    There is really no reason to go for a full service carrier (unless one chases a loyalty tier) or flies business class.

    LSCs and FSCs now have –
    # Same aircraft (and most possibly the same seat configurations)
    # Same baggage allowance (except AI)
    # Paid seat selection
    # Meals (you pay for them in LCCs and get a choice of what you want to eat, in FSCs you will have to live with what’s given to you). but give me a choice of junglee sandwitch v/s a roulette meal of AI/9W it’s not a hard choice to make.

  7. As a Star Gold passenger flying AI multiple times a week for the past 3 years, I have been very happy with them due to free seat selection, baggage allowance and lounge access. They give me bulkhead seats without charge at the airport 99.99% of the time. But yesterday for the first time, they refused to give me a bulkhead seat as it was chargeable (the counter staff don’t even ask for my name or ID at this point). And all my seat reservations for future flights have been wiped out (call center confirmed this). The call center said that Star Golds cannot reserve seats complimentary either. A sad day indeed!

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