The revised policy, which came into effect last week, means passengers who are looking to skip the long queues at airports will have to shell out a fee for it. For IndiGo, the lowest seat fees is Rs 100 while for SpiceJet it is Rs 99.
India’s largest low-cost airlines IndiGo and SpiceJet have made online check-in a paid service.
The revised policy, which has come into effect since last week, means passengers who are looking to skip the long queues at airports will have to shell out a fee for it.
For IndiGo, the lowest seat fees is Rs 100 while for SpiceJet it is Rs 99.
Earlier, passengers paid extra only for some seats, including those along the aisle, window-facing or offering additional legroom if they checked in online.
Mumbai-based low-cost carrier GoAir is still offering some seats for free. Full-service airlines like Jet Airways and Vistara said they don't charge for seat selection.
The move comes at a time when airlines are struggling with significant cost escalation but face a predicament where they can’t raise fares due to increased competition.
Such charges will help to boost ancillary revenue of the airlines. Ancillary revenue consists of charges like baggage fees, seat selection fees, cancellation charges.
“Based on our customer preference, we have made some changes in pricing for advance selection of seats. This is a practice followed by airlines globally and across India,” IndiGo said.
Experts said that airlines were free to charge for the online check-in service as Directorate General of Civil Aviation has allowed unbundling of services. “Airlines are not in violation of law. According to rules, they can charge of such services,” said Lalit Bhasin, partner at law firm Bhasin & Co.
Earlier this year, Delhi high court had set aside a DGCA move which fixed Rs 100 per kg as extra luggage fee of 15-20 kg on private airlines. The court had said that DGCA did not have the jurisdiction to fix tariff as this power lay with the airlines and the fares were determined by the market forces.
The move of the airlines was, however, received with shock and anger from flyers as many tagged minister for civil aviation Suresh Prabhu and his deputy Jayant Sinha to stop the practice.
“Charging for seats is fair but not giving an option to have free seats is not good business practice,” said Manoj Jain, a Delhi-based frequent flyer. Sinha didn't reply to an SMS query over the issue.
Flyers also said this will lead to increased congestion at major airports like Delhi and Mumbai, as more people will turn up in airport counters for check-ins. This, in turn, will also increase the burden for airlines at airports, forcing them to increase check-in counters and hire more people.
“All IndiGo web check-ins are charged now. I thought Do-It-Yourself was the way forward for business,” Paytm boss Vijay Shekhar Sharma said.
Globally, major airlines are taking steps to push more flyers to do web check-ins. UK-based Ryanair charges passengers for printing boarding card at airport check-in counters to push more flyers to do self online check-in.