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Air passengers to pay yet another fee

The air transport cartel is at it, again. In all too familiar theme, we passengers must get ready to pay one more “fee“.

Readers will recall that airlines decided to scrap travel agent commissions, in India, effective October 31, 2008. This move by the airlines, created an uproar in the industry and led to strikes and protests. Presently, airlines pay 5% of the base fare as sales commission on tickets issued by travel agents, without any charge to passengers.

According to the Deccan Chronicle, airlines and travel agents have mutually decided to add a new component, to be called a “transaction fee”, which would be a minimum of Rs 350 for domestic and maximum of Rs 10,000 for international tickets, which will replace the existing commission.

The transaction fee will be euphemistically reflected as “other charges” on the ticket. This is over and above, other fees and surcharges like fuel surcharge, air traffic congestion surcharge, user development fee, and passenger service fee, already charged to passengers.

God forbid, the airlines defile the holy altar of “low air fares” and incorporate all these charges, which make up almost 75% of the total cost of the ticket, in to their fares.

Reportedly, the transaction fee will be at least Rs 350 on domestic air tickets for the economy class, and Rs 500 for business class.

The fee on international air tickets will be Rs 1,200-2,400 (economy), Rs 2,000-5,000 (business) and Rs 5,000-10,000 (for first class tickets). These charges will be uniform across airlines, including low-cost carriers such as SpiceJet, Indigo, Kingfisher Red, etc.

At a time when everyone is cutting back on expenses, with this new arrangement, travel agents will earn double of what they are getting right now, all for no additional effort, and all of it, on us, passengers’ backs.

If you think you can avoid this mutual back-scratching “fleece the passenger party”, and book directly from the airlines’ websites or offices, think again. Air tickets booked through airline websites or their offices will also attract the transaction fee, and conveniently, this fee will be earned by the airline. Oh what joy. The competition which allows me to differentiate between good and bad travel agents, and enables me to demand value for money service, is simply overwhelming.

I wonder why is Mr. Patel asking for tax relief on aviation fuel ? By asking their passengers to needlessly pay even more, the air transport industry in India, seems to have already overcome this perfect storm of slowing demand coupled with rising costs.

See related story “Travel agents need to earn their income”

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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