Friday, January 1, 2016

SkyLoot



Late evening and there’s nearly a dozen check-in counters of Indigo with hardly one or two passengers at each counter and some with none. I walk up to one vacant counter to pick up my boarding pass and the guy tells me: “Sir, this is a Priority/Express check-in counter”. I tell him that’s very nice and I just need my boarding pass quickly. He tells me again: “Sir, this is the Express counter you need one of the other counters”. I asked him what he meant and he tells me that at this “Express/Priority check-in counter” there is an additional fee of Rs.400 for checking in quickly. Uh… what? An Express counter where there’s an additional fee of Rs.400 just to pick up a boarding pass? Indigo and some other airlines have started alarming practices that are now in the “avarice” category. Book a ticket – You pay me! (That I can understand). Pick a particular seat – You pay me! Have check-in luggage – You pay me! Want Express check-in – You pay me! Want to stretch your leg – You pay me! And if you manage to escape all this we will loot you on the inflight  food.

You would have thought that with more competition and more services the customer would benefit with better prices and facilities. None of that. IAAI and the Civil Aviation Ministry have made it an absolute misery for people to fly. Opening up the skies was also intended to help the average Indian with smaller incomes fly at times. Take a look at this:

Most days, this is the scene at the lower level domestic departure lounge near the gates at Mumbai airport. The queues at the gates often extend right into the seating area for passengers and the whole area is cramped. And this is supposedly the new terminal by IAAI. It’s not just pathetic, it is pure sinister. All you have to do is look at the prices for food items. The aviation ministry (right from the time of Praful Patel) has given all the stalls and stores the license to loot; extreme loot. All the food-prices are the same as one might find at a 5-star hotel. Even the mundane “Plain Dosa” can cost you as much as Rs.150 or more at some places. The current GOI has allowed this mindless loot to continue. Most people tolerate it and move on. Nobody has the time to complain but some bus-stations at some cities are better laid out than the lousy departure area at the lower level in Mumbai and at some other airports.

As with the loot-stores at airports, airlines too have come up with creative ideas to loot you. Indigo, Spicejet charge you anywhere between 300 and 600 for some particular seats (especially windown and aisle seats). This, even after you check-in online and print your boarding-pass which saves them time, labour and paper. Indigo has classified its seats as ordinary and as “XL” where XL means you have extra leg-room for which they charge you Rs.600 extra. This kind of horrendous avarice has gone beyond control and there will be more new ways to loot you. Around the last week of December the AirIndia fare for Delhi-Dehradun was as high as Rs.9000 (one-way) in Economy class. This is for a short distance of 300 kms. All the signs the airlines and GOI are giving you say: “Don’t fly”.

Spicejet is now boasting of a “turnaround” in 2015. I have to agree that their services have improved and they have mostly been on schedule and a lot more reliable. But they forget to tell passengers when booking tickets that they must learn a bit of Bulgarian too. Yes indeed, quite a few of the aircrafts and routes of Spicejet belong to Bulgarian Airlines and are operated by them. The pilots and crew are fully Bulgarian except for one Indian who does not provide any other service but make the announcements in Hindi to meet aviation rules. Here’s what you get to read on the back of the tray-table on a Spicejet seat:

Frequent fliers would know what it’s saying but there are no messages in Hindi or any other Indian language as with other Indian aircrafts. The crew does not speak any language other than Bulgarian and broken English. Their announcments in English with their accent is not a great problem but imagine if some Indian who does not speak English has to communicate with them. They do have the sole Indian cabin-crew member who is merely a passenger except for making the standard announcments. That’s not all, Spicejet has come up with yet another Loot-idea! If you are going to travel with check-in baggage (normally allowed up to 15kgs on domestic flights) you will have to pay around Rs.200 extra and you should know that at the time of the booking itself else you would be allowed only the cabin hand-bag. Here you go:

The two fares shown above are for the same flight for January 15. If you plan on carrying check-in baggage you will Rs.212 more. Very innovative! And I don’t think you have seen the end of these loot-innovations and chances are 2016 will see even more ideas to pinch your pocket with lesser services. And there is, of course, Jet Airways that offer you Privilege membership even if you don’t want it. When you have accumulated enough miles Jet will tell you that you’re now eligible to redeem those mileage points. Try redeeming and you will see how painful it is. Jet Privilege will not allow you to redeem your mileage points on key flights. At best, you might be able to redeem your privilege points on a very early morning flight or a very late-night red-eye flight.

While Suresh Prabhu & Co. are working hard in GOI to make the railways a better experience for travellers (and doing a good job of it too) the airline and aviation industry is going to make life more miserable for travellers and IAAI will contribute to it too. The Aviation Ministry slumbers and fails to protect customers and travellers. That’s the warning sign for 2016 if things don’t change dramatically. But there’s a way to beat most of these things.

As a frequent traveller I always pick the last row in the aircraft. Nobody wants the last row. The airline will be considerate enough to tell you that it’s a non-reclining seat when you pick it. They are very concerned about your back, you see! Nobody ever wants the last row and unless a flight is 100% full I usually have all 3 seats to myself. The innovative SkyLoot will continue. Passengers will have to find innovative ways to beat it.

Happy New Year

53 comments :

  1. Dear Sir,

    Wish you a very happy, healthy, prosperous new year 2016. I knew you would post on 1st Jan, 2016. So got up early and checked this blog first after wishing friends on whatsapp. I havent read the post yet. Im excited that you are back. Good day, Sir.

    Regds,
    Ellur Anand

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  2. Completed reading. Though I'm not frequent flier, I can understand this type of loot as I would feel pinched even to pay extra Rs. 5 for Rs. 20 local mineral water bottle in Bus-stands. Thats like 25% more than their usual profits. That itself I consider a loot but from this blog I know that Airline industry is mega-loot and baap of all such loots.

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    1. This is Bang on !
      First of all I wish you and all your readers a very Happy, Joyous, Peaceful and Prosperous New Year 2016.
      A few months back I flew from Toronto to IXC, I wanted to stay in India for a few months ( I was not sure of my return date ) so I asked my booking agent that I'd like to fly in an airline where at least one change is allowed as I'll have to change my return dates for sure, so we put a tentative date after 6 months of the flying date with JET AIRWAYS as they were the only one allowing one free change, though they were a bit expensive ( around $200+ ) than other decent airlines ( actually some have a better reputation that JET AIRWAYS and were cheaper ),
      As I didnt want the headache of paying again while I change my return dates I agreed to go with JET AIRWAYS and after a couple of months I had to come back and wanted to change the return dates.
      I called 5 weeks before my return date to change the date, it was supposed to be on wednesday which is generally not that busy in september and I was open to move it a day here and there but I was advised by my agent that I call JET CSR so I did.
      First of all to get through to JET was a headache ( it got disconnected after keeping me on hold for 10/15 minutes more than once ). somehow I got somebody and I explained the situation to him. He told I'll have to pay $400 extra for that date and I asked him why if I am allowed one change - it doesnt make sense. He gave me some reason that it is a different class - I told him I am asking to fly economy - same class i have tickets for - but he said there is a price difference I'll have to pay.
      I asked him if I can talk to his supervisor and he did not give his supervisor ( he gave different excuses - like his supervisor is busy, his supervisor's gone out and he does not know when he'll be back, he's talking to somebody else and even that he's not able to hear me), I told him that I'll give my number where I can be reached so his supervisor can call me back when he has some time, but he'll not take my number to call back as well - strange customer service.
      I held on to the phone and after an hour or so his supervisor came on line and almost started shouting at me, anyway I told him the situation and he just disconnected the phone within minutes without giving any reasonable excuse ( I realise now that its futile to expect an explanation from these idiots ).
      So I grudgingly paid more than $250/- for a different date ( on a saturday, two/three days after original return date ) return flight.
      Funny thing is recently I got in touch with @jetairways regarding this issue and after chatting with me for more than TWO weeks and taking all the information ( my Name, PNR #, dates etc ) , they are dead.
      No Communication from @jetairways I am flying again in a few days but this time I'm not taking @jetairways .
      I havent even touched on their food and service in flight.
      Thanks for bringing this up and Happy new Year to all.

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  3. Sir if you get chance to fly with American Airlines then you find they have two categories, one economy and other economy plus. The seat quality is almost same the only difference is the leg space. They made Economy seat so small that someone like who is slim and with a height of 5.8 will feel uncomfortable. For upgrading you are asked to pay extra. On top of that the flight length is around 12 hour non-stop. The most uncomfortable flight of my life..

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  4. Why no discount for the last row non-reclining seat? BTW the so called reclining is like ICC rules for bowling. Restricted to probably 3 to 4 degrees.Remember Mutthaiah Muralitharan arm twist angle or whatever?

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  5. Where there are several services between two cities, boycott the worst and make them close that route. Post other ideas here to legally punish them.

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  6. great start to 2016. when input cost dont change on daily,weekly or monthly basis how can Airlines charge higher fares during peak season besides,the charges you have listed.DGCA,ministry of civil Aviation has to answer why airtravel is so expensive despite the competition.

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  7. Good to see you are back. Wish you well.
    Nice post and relevant . With crude prices reduced, there has been no commensurate reduction in the air fares. When increasing the fares due to spike in oil prices, the fuel cost was said to contribute a major portion of the cost. What is it now. Probably "avarice" has replaced the fuel cost. Welcome to 2016 and "skyloot" philosophy. Respond strongly when the airlines are unable to deliver on promises especially time schedules. Create a rucks that shames them. There will be enough cases especially during winters. Will the DGCA wake up or is it in cahoots turning a blind eye?

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  8. as I read this, I booked Spicejet and Indigo (return) for a family tour to Gujarat. You are spot on. There has been an additional Rs500 charged as the User charges increased from 1st Jan that I had to pay post booking. If the flight charges and all this additional charges come down, there will be a huge increase in flight usage and tourism. People can spend more on the tourism sector.
    Btw, happy new year and glad your blogs are back...:)

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  9. Enthused to see your blog and make it the first one to read in 2016.
    May you be blessed with Good health for ever.

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  10. At last. Feeels good to read your article after a long time.

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  11. Welcome back dear Ravinar.Happy and prosperous New Year 2016.You started my year well.Hope to read your blogs and enjoy in new year.Thank you.

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  12. Plan a day earl. Buy a hand sanitizer, a chain & lock, keep a few coins for exact change, then go in sleeper class. Everything will be perfect

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  13. When the skies opened up about 15-20 years ago, it was a real improvement from the kind of services that the Indian Airlines mafia gave us. With additional competition, prices also dropped and for a few years it was possible to get good service as reasonable rates.

    But now we are back to the bad old days where the private airlines behave even worse than how IA used to. The food on the aircraft is not only very expensive, but it is also trashy. They have cold samosas, warm soft drinks and in general no healthy choices at all.

    Perhaps one airline bringing back good service at reasonable prices may take away the business from others and force improvement

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  14. Congratulations on your first blog of 2016 and welcome back.

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  15. Welcome back, this must be due to cartelization, let us hope GOI does something about this, but the prince incharge of this ministry doesn't seem upto it . Maybe next cabinet reshuffle will help.
    Take care of your health, a very happy new year to you & your loved ones

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  16. Sky loot is the bitter truth that privatisation in India has in no way helped the consumer either in terms of efficiency or economy,contrarily it has led to more explotation with firms creating cartels,be it in the field of telephony,airlines etc.
    What is disappointing is the complicilty and blind eye of the Modi govt.in not taking steps to take care of the consumer interest.
    In fact the Indian Railway too has jumped on the bandwagon with its exploitation of Travellers compulsion by starting of VIP tatkal where railway tickets are auctioned at twice its cost.
    Middle class BJP voter is bewildered as he find that BJP or Modi is in no way different from the much maligned Congress as there is no control on prices of eatables,no relief from exorbitant taxation,nor from red tapism,all one hears is platitude of intententions and schemes which will take place by either 2020 or 2022,no immediate relief from the spiralling cost of living and falling interest rates on fixed deposits.
    Of course BJP will have to pay political cost in 2919,in fact even today there is news that BJP has lost munciple election Chattisgarh,this is on back of losses MP.
    Steps must be taken to rectify the situation by BJP to keep focus on the interest of the voters and not be indifferent.

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  17. Please read 2019 in second last para in place of 2919

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  18. Good to see you back Ravinarji. I wish you very happy, fulfilling new year. Its always pleasure to read your blog on burning topic and I as well like many others kept checking this website for updates.

    You are right - the whole public intelligentsia got aware of Media's crookedness through your long tiresome effort of analysis based writing. Now many more articles are thrown on twitter and readership developed by you devours those as well. Media cannot throw rat and cry foul as they used to be. HATS OFF.

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  19. Welcome back Ravinar Ji. You were dearly missed. The airlines in India are trying to mimic their US couterparts but without providing the options and flexibility.

    Wish you a happy new year.

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  20. Totally agree with you Sir. Brilliant written. Add to this the whole convenience fee mess. SJ and Go Air have followed SJ now by charging for the window and aisle seat...

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  21. Amazing write up on the loot in the name of competition (!)
    Two items remain they will charge you if you close your eyes in the flight
    The ultimate loot will be extra 500 when oxygen masks are required in an emergency
    You die pay a special charge for that too

    Shame on indigo the leader jet massive looters and others are just learning spicejet is just adding spice to your travel

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  22. Welcome back Ravinarji, HNY 2016!!!
    Ofcourse unintentional, but the Indigo ad insert on your webpage does confess in its caption "It's a New Low" !!!

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  23. Dear Sir,What a start of 2016 with your article..Just open websites after so many days with a hope that something will be there..& yes it is.Welcome again & Wishing you happy & healthy new year 2016.very good article..Flying is not a pleasure any more.There r no controls at all.Each & Every steps there is a open loot..

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  24. Welcome back Sir...!
    Wish you recovered completely.

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  25. Happy new year sir. Nice to read the article

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  26. Back with a Bang! Welcome. This is the blog concerning the people and an advice to Aviatiation Ministry. It is true that few, repeat few, Ministers toil hard and show good performance and bring good name to Modi Govt, few depts are spoiling the show. Aviation is one among them. Your blogs have weight with Modi Sarkar, we know. Aviation Min also change as Rly Ministry. 2016 will prove my statement.

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  27. Wecome back Ravi the "HINDU VANGUARD"! Hope your health is OK now? I'm eagerly awaiting your renewed defense of Sanatan Dharma from the evil machinations of the loony-lefty, crypto-Commies,and Marxist vermin, who've had a field day in your absence. God Speed.

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  28. Good one.
    Spicejet actually charges Rs. 100 even for a middle seat if you try a web checkin.
    From several years of regular domestic travel, I've figured Air India is the best for the Mumbai-Bangalore sector (comfortable seats, good meals, ticket price, overall punctuality, freq. flyer rewards, etc). Next would be Jet. Vistara is quite good too, though one needs to check them out over a period of time.

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  29. Welcome back Ravinarji. Wish you good health & happy new year. As always you are spot on.

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  30. A warm welcome back and wish you and family a very happy, healthy and successful new year!
    While I agree with all the points raised, the differential pricing as well as charging for the check-in is something many (almost all with some exceptions) airlines follow across the globe, for domestic travel. Not saying its right amd os definitely an irritant for travelers, but thats a way to keep their margins while trying to keep prices down for select seats amd whe booked in advance.

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  31. Relieved to see u, that makes 2016 start on a very positive note!! :)
    Great to hv u back. Joined twitter just bcos u r there, during ur sabattical i was on the verge of quitting twitter n just then u came back (n thats back with a bang!!) N now i am holding on to twitter.
    Indeed a true pic of how airlines loot. remember some time back i had to purchase medicines on urgent basis at an airport shop. had to pay 4 times the printed mrp cos i was commiting a crime of buying urgent at an airport shop location...of course they werent doing any crime by selling at 4 times above mrp.i was in need of medicine so it was my fault- that was their attitude. Sucked!!
    Best wishes always Ravinar

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  32. Dear sir,
    Wishing you and your family a Happy and Prosperous New Year. Good to read your blog after a long time

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  33. The main issue is the airlines is managed by unqualified personnel with no working knowledge of airlines and it costing. This thing goes with every business area, for every mosquito to be killed requires constitution amendment, the constitution is to be stripped of making rules and be delegated to professionally managed regulatory agencies. It should mandatory for any airlines to put on their website & hard copy literature of all the charges that they intend to charge, if any thing beyond that, they should be penalized heavily i.e. exponentially which should deterrent the airlines. Such cases, should also be dealt at consumer courts in fast & effective way and part of the penalty system should be charged from the salary of the person involved, so that the message goes correctly

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  34. Jetairways will be renamed as Loot airways shortly.Okay, that is India.No Modi can change these lootters.Only solace is that you have come back to share our angers and agonies.

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  35. What else do you expect from trading-business community people? Loot, scams, and frauds.

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  36. Just happy to see you back. Didn't liked the priority of your comeback article but nevertheless very happy to have you back... Thanks very much. Wish you a happy New year

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  37. Welcome back. Happy and Prosperous New Year 2016. I have had the same experience in Mangalore, on a day's visit to a biz conference, while returning, the agent asked me for Rs200 to print a boarding pass, in the name of saving paper and therefore environment. Atrocious. While there are so many good things happening in India, the greed still continues in every aspect of life, individual or corporations. It may be legal, as the laws have not caught up with current status of the society and its advancements, while as an Individual, I enjoy reading the good behavior, but when it comes to self, it goes off the window. True for corporations as well. My daughter's recent experience of helping the needy in Chennai floods, gave me jitters on what I read on media vs what she had experienced.
    BTW, I tried to post this article on Mr Raju's FB, it did not allow me, not sure why. He does not seem to have a twitter handle as well.

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  38. Happy New Year,
    The Indian Airlines do pick up the money making tricks from their western peers but not the services.

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  39. Good to hear from you. Happy New Year. I am surprised that Air Lines have not come up with secretly opening up vents at 25000 feet and start selling blankets at exuberantly steeped price.

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  40. Are you guys living in Mars till Jan 2016?
    This is what is happening in all Industry and establishments - Hotel, Restaurant, Telecom, Travel, Entertainment, Banks, Insurance, Consumer Goods, Schools, Colleges, Judicial courts and of course grand daddy of all Real Estate.
    Reason is simple India has a ever growing population - 18% of world population congested in 2.5% of land mass. 1.1 billion people have to consume everyday to live they have no choice. They have to take whatever is offered or escape out of India.
    In fact, Goods are cheaper in US cities than in Indian cities.
    People are living in poor standard in Mumbai and Delhi compared to even a rural town in US.
    Even if Modi intervened at the most Airlines would remove supplementary charges and increase the flight cost which is not fixed. If we fix it, we will return to Socialism.
    Until India's population stabilizes (read somewhere it will be in 2030 at 1.5 billion) this inflationary pricing and poor consumer experience will continue.
    - Aar

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    1. Agree with @Aar .... Population is the main reason.

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  41. Sorry don't agree. Airlines are not making adequate money from operations. Considering that flying is an essential service and its in everyone's interest to keep airlines afloat,one would expect knowledgeable people to stop complaining. Moreover , its the govt's faulty policy of raising the excise duty on petroleum every time the price falls that should be blamed. I can't understand why no one is filing a PIL against this policy. Its the same as interest rates. If they rise, consumer to bear the cost, if it falls banks to book profit?
    Disclaimer : I don't work for any airline or associated with them in anyway.

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  42. Have been visiting this page almost daily to see if there are any new posts! Happy Sir, to have you back!

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  43. AGREE: I agree that the price gouging is distasteful, and the way in which each and every component of the flight has been monetized (without the 'base' fare actually coming down!) is extremely annoying and often misleading to the uninformed passenger. Over the last few years, I have consistently found that Air India offers the best service on several routes (convenient timings, good food and free 20kg allowance in Economy)

    DISAGREE: However, I do not agree with one point you made - the use of 'foreign' aircraft and crew by some airlines. In times when there is demand, such 'wet leasing' (the industry term) is an efficient way for an airline to add capacity to a route for a short time. It only benefits the passengers to have the additional capacity, both in therms of flight options and price. I agree there should be sufficient local crew on the flight, but the principle of wet leasing is, in my opinion, acceptable.

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  44. Hi Ravi - wish you a very happy new year. I have been a bitter critic of the looting going on in all the shops in the airports. While it may be acceptable to sell souvenirs/trinkets at exorbitant prices, I see no reason why the stall owners should be marking up prices by 300% or 400% or even more on normal everyday use items which they are sourcing from the general market outside. Sometimes, I have bought some toiletries when I have forgotten to pack them and found a neat sticker over the place where the MRP is indicated with a new hyper inflated value indicated on the sticker. As per my understanding it is y against the law to put a sticker over the MRP and sell it over the MRP value. I remember in the bus stand in Koyambedu in Chennai, there was once some raid on some shops where they shut down some shops which were selling items at higher than the MRP rates. I wonder how the law permits these day light robbers to operate freely at airports. Mind you if it is some restaurant it can probably price its products based on its star rating, luxury quotient etc., But to sell toiletries and normal use items at exorbitant prices looks like a criminal conspiracy to me.

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  45. this kind of service and pricing is seen in usa airlines like united. however the last time i visited i booked thru united and both the us staff and their indian counterparts were equally callous and lousy. because of weather only united airlies flights got delayed amongst all other in chicago. i with kids and a co passenger who was pregnant were stranded and had to fight for almost 8 hrs standing to get rebooking and were not even offered water as courtesy. the employee just took her jacket and walked away when i was talking and other shouted that how could i travel without carrying enough money? like its his business.
    while in india, i was stranded in delhi at 2 am with kids, and the entire experience was horrific. while from chicago atleast they put myself and kids to gether and tried their best (half way i was in first class) while the delhi guys put me, my 5 yr old and 8 yr old on seperate seats, can you imagine? this after i heard choicest of insults hurled at me. when i complained, all i got was some miles into my frequent flier acct. ? like really?
    my take is while all loot, the goras atleast acknowledge taht its your money, while desi will behave as if its his baap ka raaj.

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  46. Thank you @mediacrooks for a real happy 1st January

    “Opening up the skies was also intended to help the average Indian with smaller incomes fly at times....”

    In 70's, refrigerator was luxury and in suburbs of kolkata 1 out of 1000 had that precious white goods and people who had that used to offer with pride.. cold water during summer. Telephone was for established doctors,advocates, businessmen and few 'Rahees'. Refrigerator lost its status early 90s and phone when we started to receive calls in our mobiles without any extra cost though it was included in outgoing calls.

    But till date Air Travel is considered as a luxury in India and knowing well the situation, neither media nor politicians have ever raised this issue seriously or tried to solve it. Everyone who travels by air is quite habituated with this situation and for the first time someone has raised the issue(i am not considering the tweets by @mediacrooks here ).

    India is a vast country and connectivity through rail or road is not possible always and everywhere. But previous govs have never felt the necessity to develop airways as just another mode of transport instead of treating it as an costly alternative. People still think it as luxury, the fastest mode of transport and so you have to pay extra price for everything. And this perception has been developed by our govs and media. And criminal media is equal partner in the loot. Kolkata-Mumbai fare is same as kolkata-kualalumpur when distance is 70% less(it was higher even few days ago). Huge money through Advts. Special discounts to them which public will be never able to know. All these are reasons behind the silence of MSM.

    We all know about Kashmir,Shimla,Manali,Ooty..how many people know about North-East. people of kolkata prefer to go Kashmir which is more than 2000km away than around 650km away Manipur or Nagaland or Meghalaya. We can't blame people for that too. Because it takes more than 3 days to reach Agartala,Imphal,Aizwal,Kohima or Shilong from kolkata,by rail and road..and by air it's one hour. No one questions why air fare is so high..when total infrastructure provided by our money. Previous govs even allowed airlines to categorize..profitable and non-profitable routes. No one thinks or even say that it should be considered as just another mode of transport and with reasonably priced fare and other things it has enough potential to add a percentage to our GDP.

    NaMo once said that I didn't build Kutch and Rann..it was there. I just provided infrastructure and marketed it. With proper guidelines and effective regulator to control air fare and other related things, the biggest beneficiary will be Tourism and of course people of India.

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  47. During the recent Chennai floods passengers were stranded at Chennai Airport and with great difficulty they moved to Bangalore for proceeding to their final destination, The airlines increased the rates to obscene levels and no questions were asked by anyone.

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  48. I am happy to see that you did not propose government to step in and stop this 'loot' (or did you?).
    Some people recommend government to step in and punish the evil-looting-airlines. I am happy to see that you did not bite that bait.

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