Airlines in India haven’t had the best time in the last few months — oil prices recently spiked to record levels, and competition among the players in the space meant that passenger fares were at rock-bottom. The struggle was best exemplified by India’s largest airline Indigo, which posted its first ever loss last quarter since it had gone public. But Indigo’s latest attempt to buttress its sagging finances hasn’t gone down particularly well with its customer base.
Indigo has been telling people on Twitter that it has now begun charging for all its web-check seats. The step isn’t sudden — for a while, India’s airlines have been charging customers extra amounts to choose premium seats while checking in online. But Indigo announced that all of its web-checkin seats would be chargeable, which meant that people would need to shell out a minimum of Rs. 100, and going up to Rs. 300 if they wanted to check in through the web.
As per our revised policy, all seats will be chargeable for web check-in. Alternatively, you may check-in at the airport for free. Seats will be assigned as per the availability. ~Prabh
— IndiGo (@IndiGo6E) November 25, 2018
This immediately sparked off a reaction from Twitter users, and some prominent people chimed in. Paytm CEO Vijay Shekhar Sharma wondered why airlines would charge for a service that helped Indigo save the time of on-ground staff.
ICYMI. All Indigo web checked-in are charged now. I thought DIY was the way forward for businesses. https://t.co/Cf5DUl0jT3
— Vijay Shekhar (@vijayshekhar) November 25, 2018
Venture Capitalist Ritesh Banglani echoed similar sentiments, saying how the extra fee wouldn’t necessarily make up for the longer queues and higher staff costs.
Indigo clearly missing the wood for the trees. Airport check-in = higher staff cost, flight delays, lower customer satisfaction. Surely the tiny fees from web check-in can't be worth it. https://t.co/uefNL4KTBn
— Ritesh Banglani (@banglani) November 25, 2018
Even MPs got involved. Derek O’Brien said that there was already a Parliamentary report that had slammed Indigo, and the latest move was unlikely to win it any fans.
What’s going on! There is a Parliamentary report presented (in the public domain) slamming Indigo on how they treat customers. And there you go again https://t.co/kbGCivFUqk
— Derek O'Brien | ডেরেক ও’ব্রায়েন (@derekobrienmp) November 25, 2018
Other users said how the new rules would making flying much less convenient.
Amazing how far an airline will go to make flying a shitty experience. FYI, I fly Indigo often. A. Baggage drop off is a serious time killing affair at the airport. B. The self check in kiosk shuts 1 hour before departure. C. You can’t pick a seat in web check in without paying. https://t.co/UgWe9IxoSb
— Ashish K. Mishra (@akm1410) November 25, 2018
And it being Twitter, the announcement led to all other manner of grievances being aired against the airline.
Then why you giving free seats to mosquitoes… have they also paid for premium seats. All ur flights from Delhi have company of mosquitoes.. #indigo #checkin #paidcheckin #webcheckin https://t.co/AiLynadKWQ
— VJ (@Vineet_Entrepre) November 25, 2018
And it didn’t take long for the jokes to start.
Hi @IndiGo6E here are some more things you charge on your flights:
Seats: reclining, cushions, arm rests
"Insert credit card to open window blinds, reading lights or call the attendant"
Travel time charge (like @Uber)
Overhead oxygen masks
Priority emergency evacuation https://t.co/Tx0DOM5rws
— vadakkus (@vadakkus) November 25, 2018
Some analysed how Indigo’s moves would affect the airline industry, and wondered if other airlines could begin offering free web checkins to better compete with Indigo.
Everytime someone in the airline industry becomes anti customer, another player comes in to teach them a lesson. Let's see how this progresses https://t.co/te0BUVCSBV
— Deepak Shenoy (@deepakshenoy) November 25, 2018
It’s too early to say how other airlines will react to Indigo’s move — Indigo is the market leader in Indian skies, with nearly 41% share; its move to make all web checkins chargeable could either give the green light to the entire industry to follow suit, or it could be an opportunity for other players to steal away some of its market share.
But there’s little doubt that India’s airlines need to make all the money that they can. Jet Airways had registered losses of Rs. 1297 crore in the last quarter, SpiceJet lost Rs. 380 crore, while Indigo reported losses of Rs. 652 crore. India’s airfares are currently among the lowest in the world, and its airlines have been struggling to make ends meet. Indian airlines have been trying out different strategies to save on costs — Jet recently suspended lounge access for its JetPrivilege platinum and gold members traveling on Economy, and Indigo’s now tried to make some extra cash with a paid web check in program. But these airlines will need to first contend with the notoriously demanding Indian consumer who doesn’t usually take kindly to paying for things which had once been available for free.