By Lata Jha:
A friend who came back from college last month was both hassled and amused by the thought of how she’d manage the journey back. She had booked her tickets with the ‘flag carrier airline’ of the country, Air India, who, she had no idea, would slash their baggage limit by 5 kg a day after she’d reached home. “What did they expect me to do? Get all my stuff to sell it here?”
She’s not the only one complaining, I believe. To feel the air of India, fly Air India, one had heard so many times. Not anymore though, unless the air of India reeked of some desperate cost cutting measures. Air India has gone several steps ahead of its competitor Low Cost Carriers. In a response to these humble airlines that sought to cut costs for things as simple as e-ticket printouts and cancellation charges, AI has gone out to declare it is planning to tweak some major aspects of its policy. It has already reduced baggage allowance on domestic flights from 20 to 15 kg recently. It has also ruffled competition by slashing allowance on Gulf routes from 40 to 30 kg.
In contrast to LCCs like Indigo, Spicejet and GoAir who still offer meals on payment, Air India has declared that it might soon load no food on to the aircraft at all. For long, AI had not joined the bandwagon. It would not charge extra for meals, though it had quietly swapped its hot meals for cold eatables like sandwiches a few months ago. Now, officials say, even passengers willing to pay extra would not be served food, especially on flights of 90 minutes or less in duration.Â This owing to the need to load the flight and turn it around faster. The weight would be less, and so would the time needed to prepare for an onward flight.
The airline is also awaiting clearance from the Aviation ministry on the number of seats it could charge extra for. It plans to outline a new policy for preferred seats, which would probably stand at 12 in all, or 15% of the total number of seats.
While the concept of the budget airline has worked well for the aam aadmi, it’s not very heartening to know every little luxury that made the journey worthwhile is now being compromised on. So while travel is a necessity for us, it ceases to be the pleasure it used to be. So much for ‘Hum aapki seva ke liye maujood hain’.