Flight seat pricing: Airlines must pay heed to mounting complaints - The Tribune India

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Flight seat pricing

Airlines must pay heed to mounting complaints

Flight seat pricing

Photo for representation. File photo



AIRLINES attribute the differential pricing for seat selection in flights to factors such as legroom, proximity to exit doors, window or aisle seats or faster boarding and de-boarding. A plethora of complaints regarding practices that trick consumers into making unintended purchases has forced the Centre to intervene. Airlines have been warned that not every seat can be labelled as paid during the web check-in process. This practice has been criticised for undermining consumer autonomy and influencing decision-making. The Consumer Affairs Ministry has called a meeting of all stakeholders next month to discuss the issue. Also on the agenda are grievances regarding passengers being denied boarding despite possessing a valid ticket as well as delays in refunds for cancelled flights.

Nearly 10,000 complaints related to the airline sector have been received through the government’s National Consumer Helpline in the last one year. Several consumers have expressed disappointment over the ‘misleading’ interface features of airline websites, apps and travel portals, leading to suspicion about a systemic practice of fooling ticket buyers. The airlines’ contention that differential seat pricing is a common practice in the global aviation industry is not being contested. What’s under scrutiny is the adoption of any unfair trade practice that nudges ticket buyers to make choices they did not intend to.

A recent report of a parliamentary standing committee says that the airlines must display seat-wise airfares to ensure transparency and earn only a reasonable profit while pricing tickets. It also calls for an effective mechanism to address consumer grievances in a time-bound manner. A periodic increase in airfare and surge-pricing are now routine trade practices, leaving passengers with little choice. The least the airlines can do is to not take unsuspecting customers for a ride.


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