With airlines levying seat allocation charges for most seats on a plane, 47% fliers ended up paying them in the last 12 months
- ● Family travelers indicate simply unable to get seats together unless they pay for seats upfront
- ● 51% fliers survey said they did not get an option to secure a seat without additional charges
- ● Percentage of fliers with such an experience increased from 35% to 51% in the last 12 months
- ● 48% of fliers want that government mandate airlines to not charge seat allocation fee for more than 20% of the seats on a flight
September 5, 2023, New Delhi: Taking a flight is no longer about booking a ticket. There are added costs to travelling. The difference is not just between a business class and economy class as even in the latter there are privileges that come at a cost. Most airlines in India now are making passengers select their seats by making a payment if they want to be seated together with each seat costing between INR 200 - 1,500 depending on the location of the seat. Seats which offer more leg room space are priced more than others. Similarly, a window or aisle seat cost more. Even in the case of many middle seats, those in the front rows cost more. Passengers who are not interested in paying extra have to opt for a middle-row seat in the rear or wait for a seat to be assigned to them at the time of check-in at the airport. For a family of 4, the whole system works out to be very difficult particularly if parents are traveling with their young children and do not reserve seats upfront paying the seat allocation fee. Rising load factors and most seat allocations being charged for, have meant middle seats in different rows for such family travelers.
A Parliamentary panel in its report last year had observed that the airlines charging passengers a fee for seat selection on an aircraft is “arbitrary and unjustifiable”. With thousands of complaints received from fliers over the last 9 months, LocalCircles through a nationwide survey of fliers sought to find out about their experience and whether more seats without extra charge should be made available to fliers who can’t afford or don’t want to pay more for a privilege. The survey received over 34,000 responses from airline fliers located in 308 districts of India. 66% respondents were men while 34% respondents were women. 44% respondents were from tier 1, 32% from tier 2 and 24% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts.
51% of the respondents who booked flights in the last 12 months say the airline was charging extra fee for allotment of each seat on the plane
The survey first sought to know the experience of fliers with trying to get without a payment. It asked them, “when you booked a flight ticket in the last 12 months, did you get an option to secure a free seat (no charges) when booking?” Out of 11,827 respondents to this query 51% pointed out that “no, every seat allotment was on chargeable basis”; 37% indicated that “yes, a few seats were allotted during the booking without charges”; and 12% indicated “can’t say” as either someone else made the booking/ don’t remember or booked via counter/ travel agent. In effect, 51% of the respondents who booked flights in the last 12 months say the airline was charging extra fee for allotment of each seat on the plane.
It must be noted that percentage of fliers who experienced that the airline was charging for every seat was 35% in 2022 and has jumped to 51% in 2023 indicating that it is becoming harder to get a seat without paying.
47% of fliers indicated that they paid extra fee for reserving a seat once or more
The survey next sought to know in what percent of the instances the fliers ended up paying a seat allocation fee. It asked them “When you booked a flight ticket in the last 12 months, what percentage of the time did you end up paying to reserve a seat?” Out of 11,556 fliers who responded 47% indicated that they paid extra fee for reserving a seat once or more. Data shows that 35% of the respondents had to pay every single time; 4% paid extra 75% of times; 6% paid 50% of times and 2% paid extra 25% of times. However, 50% of the respondents stated that they “never paid extra for a seat and took whatever was assigned at the airport” and 3% of fliers surveyed chose “can’t say” as either someone else made the booking/ they don’t remember/ booked via counter/ travel agent.
48% of fliers want that government mandate airlines to not charge seat allocation fee for more than 20% of the seats on a flight
The last survey question sought to know “what is the maximum percentage of seats in an airplane for which airlines should be permitted to charge a seat allocation fee?” Out of 11,415 who responded to this query 48% of fliers want the government to mandate airlines to not charge seat allocation fees for more than 20% of the seats on a flight. Data shows that the largest group of 48% of respondents want airlines to be permitted to charge seat allocation fee for only 20% of seats; 13% indicated that this could go up to 30% of seats; 5% are willing for 40% of seats; 13% of respondents for 50% of seats on airplane; 4% for up to 75% and 2% favour allocation charge for all seats. In addition, 15% of respondents shared no clear stance stating “can’t say”. Clearly, those who travel by flights believe that the charge should exist for a select number of seats like the Exit Row and the front row which might offer higher leg space and not for all seats except a few middle seats at the rear of the aircraft, the way it is being done by most airlines currently.
In summary, the survey shows that in the last 12 months, 51% of the respondents who booked flights experienced that the airline was charging extra fee for allotment of each seat on the plane. This statistic stood at 35% in 2022 and has jumped to 51% in 2023 possibly indicating that more airlines are now following the practice of charging a seat allocation fee for more seats than they did last year. The survey also learned that 47% of the fliers paid the seat allocation charges for reserving a seat once or more and 50% opted not to pay and took whatever they got at the airport. The challenge cited with this by many family and group travelers is that unless they pay this seat allocation fee they simply cannot expect to be seated together in the flight making it inconvenient for families with young children. During the solutions brainstorming on LocalCircles, many fliers highlighted the need for a cap on such paid seat allocations. When the question was asked in the survey, it found that 48% of the fliers were in favour only 20% of the seats on an airplane be permitted for levying of a seat allocation fee. LocalCircles will escalate the findings of this survey with the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Consumer Affairs for their understanding and action.
The survey received over 34,000 responses from airline fliers located in 308 districts of India. 66% respondents were men while 34% respondents were women. 44% respondents were from tier 1, 32% from tier 2 and 24% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts. The survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants were validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.