On October 25th, India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DCGA) announced an unprecedented rule; it has banned foreign airlines from charging fees for second checked bags.
Up until around 3 years ago, most world airlines (including Western ones) allowed passengers to check two bags of up to 23 kg for free. But the global financial crisis, coupled with rising competition caused Western carriers to implement checked bag fees for the second bag on international flights; akin to those charged on domestic flights in the United States.
However, the DGCA has asked Western carriers to revert to their traditional practices of allowing 2 free checked bags (Indian carriers to the US do this). Foreign airlines will be asked to acknowledge the DCGA’s request by the end of October and implement the rule change soon thereafter.
DGCA chief Bharat Bhushan had this to say about the proposed rule change:
This anti-passenger policy of some airlines will not be allowed to continue. The matter is being taken up under the existing air service agreements India has with countries
The DGCA’s stance on this issue represents typical governmental failure with regards to aviation policy. With far more pressing issues at hand, the DCGA has chosen instead to engage in its usual shenanigans; the second checked bag policy is really a diminutive issue in the grand scheme of things. Moreover, there are very real costs associated with allowing a second checked bag, in that the airline will be forgoing potential cargo payload to instead carry passenger bags. A second checked bag fee is simply a way of (partially offsetting that revenue loss).
Still, from a passenger perspective the rule change is a welcome change. The fee on a second checked bag can often shoot as high as 4,000 rupees per flight; not an insignificant cost. But on the flip side, foreign airlines might simply raise their fares by the requisite amount to cover the lost revenue; leaving passengers no better off than before.
Of course there could not be a rule change beneficial to air travelers without typical exaggeration from the media. A story in the Times of India claims that,”passengers ended up paying anywhere from Rs 4,000 to Rs 20,000 extra for a one-way passage.” because of second checked baggage fees. We wonder what was so special in that reporter’s bag that a fee 5 times the normal amount was merited?