NEW DELHI: In today’s air travel landscape, booking a ticket is just the beginning. Airlines have introduced various charges, including seat allocation fees, that passengers must consider when planning their journey. This report delves into the impact of seat allocation charges on air travellers, drawing insights from a nationwide survey conducted by LocalCircles. The survey collected responses from over 34,000 airline passengers across India, shedding light on their experiences and preferences regarding seat allocation fees.
I. 51% of Airline Passengers Pay Seat Allocation Charges
In the last 12 months, 51% of respondents who booked flights reported that airlines charged an extra fee for seat allocation. This represents a significant increase from 35% in the previous year, indicating a growing trend among airlines to impose seat allocation fees.
II. Passengers’ Experience With Seat Allocation Fees
The survey sought to understand passengers’ experiences with seat allocation fees. When asked if they had the option to secure a free seat during booking, 51% of respondents stated that every seat allotment was chargeable. Only 37% reported having the opportunity to secure some seats without charges, while 12% were uncertain or had other booking methods.
III. 47% of Travelers Pay Extra for Seat Reservations
When questioned about the percentage of flights where they paid for seat reservations in the last 12 months, 47% of respondents confirmed they had paid extra fees. Of these respondents, 35% paid for every seat allocation, 4% paid for 75% of the time, 6% paid for 50% of the time, and 2% paid for 25% of the time. Conversely, 50% of respondents never paid extra for seat allocation, and 3% were unsure due to various booking methods.
IV. 48% Favour Government Mandate on Seat Allocation Fees
A critical aspect of the survey was passengers’ preferences for government intervention in regulating seat allocation fees. When asked about the maximum percentage of seats airlines should be permitted to charge fees for, 48% of respondents advocated for government mandates allowing fees on no more than 20% of seats. Other respondents expressed varying degrees of willingness to accept fees for different proportions of seats, with 15% remaining undecided.
V. Passenger Sentiments & Solutions
Passengers’ opinions were clear: they believed that seat allocation fees should primarily apply to select seats such as exit rows and front rows, which often offer additional legroom. This view contrasts with the current practice of most airlines, which charge fees for a majority of seats except a few middle seats at the rear of the aircraft.
In conclusion, this survey reveals that in the past 12 months, 51% of airline passengers who booked flights experienced seat allocation fees, marking a notable increase from the previous year. Furthermore, 47% of respondents admitted to paying these charges for seat reservations at least once. Families and group travellers, in particular, find this practice inconvenient, as it often results in separate seating arrangements. Many passengers expressed a need for government intervention, with 48% supporting a cap on seat allocation fees for no more than 20% of seats.
LocalCircles intends to share the survey findings with the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Ministry of Consumer Affairs to facilitate informed decision-making and action on this matter.
The survey garnered responses from over 34,000 airline passengers across 308 districts in India. The demographic breakdown shows that 66% of respondents were male, while 34% were female. Additionally, 44% of respondents hailed from tier 1 cities, 32% from tier 2 cities, and 24% from tier 3, 4, and rural districts. All participants were registered with LocalCircles to participate in the survey.