Air India chief Lohani defends carrier's pro-passenger policy
Government-run Air India on Wednesday rejected the charge that it was driving air fares down by offering cheaper ticket prices for the last minute travel against the industry's practise of increasing them manifold. "We are not driving down air fares. We are only filling empty seats by lowering last minute air fares to the level of AC-II class ticket prices of Rajdhani trains," Air India Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani told reporters on the sidelines of an event here.
In a move that check-mated its rivals like Jet Airways and Vistara on the pricing front, the national carrier had early this month announced dropping its last minute fares to the level of AC II tier ticket prices of Rajdhani trains to four key destinations from Delhi -- Kolkata, Bengaluru, Hyderabad and Mumbai, to begin with.
Later, it extended the offer on seven other routes, giving jitters to the private airlines, which jack up their last minute fares to astronomical sums. The move, however, attracted criticism from the industry. Lohani said that since only 2-3 per cent of the bookings are made in the last 6-7 hours of flight departure, the drop in fares for last minute travel instead of jacking them up was unlikely to have any adverse impact on yields. "Our objective to provide relief to those fliers who undertake travel at the very last minute either due to medical emergency or some other pressing problem," he said. Earlier, Lohani along with Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) Managing Director Mangu Singh inaugurated two specialised check-in counters at the New Delhi metro station's airport express line.
The counters will provide enhanced facility to Air India passengers, both international as well as domestic travellers, allowing them to book tickets, get desired flight information and also check-in the extra luggage. The flight check-in facility will, however, close two hours before the departure of the scheduled flight. Inaugurating the counters, Lohani said, "We are pleased to extend the facility of city check-in on both the domestic and international flights operated by Air India. Earlier, city check-in was available only for domestic sector flights and on a few gulf countries only."
But to supplement the efforts, Air India has set up this flight information-cum-excess baggage as well as ticketing counter at each of the two stations. "The objective of this is to enhance the overall travel experience and make it less hassling for passengers," he added. With this facility in place, the airport passengers can obtain their boarding pass, check-in at the city check-in counter and can go for sightseeing in the national capital, Air India said.