Indian passengers are not typically used to being charged a separate fee for airport check-in. But with some airlines increasingly levying such charges post COVID, the country’s aviation ministry has issued a warning to all carriers to stop such practices.
Stop charging passengers for airport check-in!
Air travelers in India flying with certain airlines have been complaining recently about being charged for checking in at airports. While online checking is increasingly getting popular worldwide with several advantages such as avoiding long queues and saving paper, all Indian airlines, whether low-cost or full service, have always given the option of free check-in at airports. But that changed after COVID.
During the initial days of the pandemic in 2020, after a gap of two months during the first nationwide lockdown due to COVID-19, the Ministry of Civil Aviation issued detailed guidelines to be followed by passengers, which required them to make a web check- in and obtain an e-boarding pass. The objective was to help maintain social distancing at airports by reducing queues and ensuring contactless travel.
But some budget carriers soon started levying an airport check-in fee of ₹ 200 ($ 2.5) to passengers who did not check in online.
The aviation ministry has been observing this trend for a few months and has issued a few warnings, including a recent one that warned carriers against issuing such charges. It also highlighted that “this additional amount is not in accordance with the instructions given in the aforesaid order or as per extant provisions of Aircraft Rules, 1937.”
Air India has denied ever charging such a fee, while IndiGo has responded that it will start complying with the ministry’s directive.
Some airline officials object
Some airline officials are not entirely happy with the government’s interference in what they believe are airlines’ decisions. They were quick to point out the government-imposed fare bands that have been in place since COVID.
The Times of India quotes them as saying,
“It was a commercial decision of airlines to levy a charge on passengers checking in at airports. Now that the ministry is deciding what can or can’t be charged, they must remove domestic airfare bands also. These fare bands (applicable on a 15-day rolling basis), have not been revised despite the steep hike in jet fuel price and steep depreciation of the rupee. “
Indian airlines are gearing up for the busy festive season ahead. Photo: Getty Images
Busy season ahead
The directive comes at a time when airlines are gearing up to receive more passengers in the coming months. Domestic traffic in India saw a 13% dip in June compared to the previous month, but it was significantly higher than last year and marginally lower than the pre-pandemic level. The overall domestic passenger traffic last month touched 10.5 million, compared to 3.1 million in June 2021, and was only 12% lower compared to the pre-COVID level of 12.0 million seen in June 2019.
The dip in numbers is mainly due to schools reopening following the Indian summer break. However, it is expected to bounce back during the upcoming festive season, which starts in September-October and extends to the peak holiday season until February the following year.
But given the current fuel charges, it looks like ticket prices will take a little longer to come back to normal.
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Source: The Times of India