New Delhi: Civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju may have announced some steps in favour of airline passengers, but data compiled by Yatra.com and Mint research shows airlines have increased prices for almost everything, apart from the tickets, in the past five years, including for infants or minors travelling alone, seat cancellation, change of name on tickets, among others.

Airlines have also introduced charges like convenience fees for booking through their websites. For example, many airlines charge 150 for booking with a credit card and 75 for booking with a debit card. Even to refund a ticket, there are charges of 200.

The charges are higher when tickets are booked through travel agents or online agencies. The fees for booking international flights are even higher.

D. Sudhakara Reddy, founder and national president of Air Passengers’ Association of India, said he has received several complaints relating to high charges, adding airlines increased cancellation fees in February and again in April. “This is where they are digging their own graves," he said, “They are finding new areas and putting it on gullible passengers."

In the context of the government move to cut extra baggage charges, Reddy cited the case of an elderly woman at an airport check-in queue with additional luggage who was forced to visit the airline office to pay up and return to check in.

Sharat Dhall, president, Yatra.com, said airlines were changing their strategy.

“We have started seeing a clear shift on the part of low-cost airlines, in particular, towards charging a low fare for a plain-vanilla, regular seat with limited baggage and no food, coupled with additional costs for optional add-ons like premium seats, extra baggage and food. This is clearly targeted at keeping the entry pricing low in order to attract first-time travelers and expand the market aggressively," he said.

Airlines in the West typically slap multiple ancillary fees but also offer airfares booked in advance at very cheap rates. “Airlines ought to be customer friendly because they are not losing money in today’s environment," said former executive director of Air India Jitender Bhargava. “If they really want to be compared with their western counterparts then they should copy every aspect of their operations including rock bottom fares and not be selective."

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