VERY rightly the government rejected the budget carriers’ plea to charge for check-in baggage. They have already been charging passengers arbitrarily for even a kg or two of extra weight. And there is no sign of their services improving. With fewer counters operating at airports for passengers’ check-in during rush hours and early morning hours to cramped sitting and leg space to sometimes just a couple of hostesses to help passengers on board, the budget airline companies have been testing their flyers’ patience for quite some time now. After security check, flyers often face flight delay, and airlines almost rhetorically blame it upon the airport and aviation authorities. At smaller airports, there is one X-ray machine which usually caters to a particular airline first, making the passengers of other flights wait.
If this is the story of passengers till they reach their respective lounges after a lot of hop, skip and jump, their fate could be worse such as when over 3,600 flights of different airlines, including Air India, were cancelled in December 2014 alone, with the government attributing this to “indiscipline” among their staff and crew shortage. During that month, 3,644 flights including 2,808 of Spicejet were cancelled, a problem which the Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said had to be addressed ‘unitedly’. He said there was a lot of indiscipline, besides shortage of staff in airlines. But his ministry has done little to change it.
After the hassles at the airport are over and you have boarded the flight, your ordeal is not over. Because you don’t know whether competent pilots are there in the cockpit. In violation of DGCA directives on operations during low-visibility period, an airline recently operated three flights from Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Pune to Delhi without CAT-IIIB-compliant crew and was forced to divert the flights to Jaipur, causing immense inconvenience to the passengers. CAT-IIIB qualification is essential for ensuring smooth flight through fog. In defence the airline spokesperson said non-CAT-IIIB trained crew was deployed as there was no prediction of a bad weather at the Delhi airport! You have it! Airlines make no mistakes.
In April this year, DGCA allowed domestic carriers to unbundle their services and charge separately for facilities such as preferred seats, meals on-board and use of lounges. With everything except water in a plastic cup available for a price, passengers can only have the illusion of flying cheap. The airlines keep innovating ways to fleece the flyer. But there is no matching improvement in services, only deterioration. They do not hire or deploy adequate staff. The less said about the on-board services, the better. Even on more than an hour-long flights you should not expect any ‘hot beverages’ because their equipment might have gone for repair. Online check-ins might not reflect on the computers of the check-in staff. Unless the airlines provide fully satisfactory services, they should not be allowed to put their hands in the passengers’ purses.