Government warns Indian Airlines against imposing airport check-in fees on passengers
Indian passengers are generally not used to being charged a separate fee for airport check-in. But with some airlines increasingly levying these fees post-COVID, the country’s aviation ministry has issued a warning to all carriers to end such practices.
Stop charging passengers for airport check-in!
Air travelers in India traveling with certain airlines have recently complained of being charged for check-in at airports. As online check-in is becoming increasingly popular across the globe with several benefits such as avoiding long queues and paper saving, all Indian airlines whether low priced or full-service, have always offered the option of free check-in at airports. But that changed after COVID.
In the early days of the pandemic in 2020, after a two-month gap during the first nationwide COVID-19 lockdown, the Ministry of Civil Aviation issued detailed guidelines for passengers to follow, requiring them to complete an online check-in and get an electronic boarding pass. The aim was to help maintain social distancing at airports by reducing queues and ensuring contactless travel.
But some low-cost carriers soon began collecting airport check-in fees of ₹200 ($2.5) from passengers who failed to check in online.
The Ministry of Aviation has been observing this trend for a few months and has issued a few warnings, including a recent one warning carriers against issuing such charges. He also pointed out that “this additional amount is not in accordance with the instructions given in the above-mentioned order or with the existing provisions of the Aviation Rules 1937”.
Air India denied ever charging such a fee, while IndiGo replied that it would start complying with the ministry’s directive.
Some airline officials oppose it
Some airline officials are not entirely happy with government interference in what they believe to be airline decisions. They were quick to point out the government-mandated rate bands that have been in place since COVID.
The Times of India quotes them as saying,
“It was a business decision by the airlines to levy a charge on passengers checking in at airports. Now that the ministry decides what can or cannot be charged, it must also remove domestic airfare bands. These Tariff bands (applicable on a rolling basis of 15 days) have not been revised despite the sharp rise in the price of kerosene and the sharp 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 preparing to welcome more passengers in the coming months. Domestic traffic in India was down 13% in June from the previous month, but was significantly higher than a year ago and slightly below pre-pandemic levels. Overall domestic passenger traffic last month hit 10.5 million, down from 3.1 million in June 2021, and was just 12% below the pre-COVID level of 12.0 million seen in June 2019.
The drop in enrollment is mainly due to the reopening of schools after the Indian summer holidays. However, it is expected to rebound in the upcoming holiday season, which begins in September-October and extends into the peak holiday season until February the following year.
But given current fuel costs, it looks like ticket prices will take a bit longer to return to normal.
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Source: India time