How will unbundling work out for India?

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.

Related Posts:

Live From A Lounge is present on Facebook, Twitter & available via email, RSS.

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.

More articles by Ajay »


  1. Air India has been reducing the level of their in-flight meals. On a flight leaving around 7 in the morning on which I had had a reasonable breakfast for many years, I find them serving a puff and a small sticky sweet. On domestic sector of an international flight, they serve a sandwich and a box of fruit drink, even if it is proper dinner time.

    So it may be better that we know that Air India will not serve meals on a flight, rather than go with expectation of getting a meal.

  2. Cleartrip suddenly says ‘A processing fee of Rs. 300 per passenger is applicable on this booking.’ just at card payment.
    Spicejet surprises users with ‘payment fee’ just before payment.

    Dishonest as always.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *