Passengers flying in the economy class on Air India can now bid for business class seats under the 'preferred seat option' on the airline's website.
Under this option, economy class passengers can avail a business class seat, the comfort of extra leg space and a privilege to deplane much faster upon arrival in exchange for a payment. The airline has listed the details of price per preferred seat in the range of Rs 100 and Rs 3,500 for various sectors.
Passengers can avail this option after the check-in roster is prepared and collect their seat details from the airport manager during boarding.
Seat reservation for the first and business class passengers on all select routes operated by Air India, however, will be free of charge.
The scheme is now extended to cover window, aisle and middle seats in the front and middle sections of the aircraft. The facility of paid seat selection will be available until four hours before departure. Within four hours, the selection of all seats will be free of charge.
Earlier, the airline used to upgrade seats against a fixed charge ranging between Rs 4,500 and Rs 6,000 for domestic flights and $200-1,000 on international flights depending on countries. As a result, a number of premium seats on the airline remained unsold.
On an average, 30-40 percent seats in the business class category of the airline go vacant resulting in significant losses to airlines. The move will help the cash-strapped airline fill vacant business class seats for an additional revenue.
"This was important as many business class seats were going vacant. We are planning to cover other cities in coming weeks. We hope to garner Rs 1 crore per day when the model is fully rolled out," Air India Chairman and Managing Director Pradeep Singh Kharola told Financial Express.
The preferred seat select facility is also available at Air India Booking office and Air India Call Center.
Experts believe that removing a threshold amount could help the ailing carrier fill vacant seats.
"Air India already had an airport upgrade scheme running. Jet Airways
too upgrades its passengers for a minimum fee. Removing the threshold could help Air India garner more revenues," Balu Ramachandran, Head of Air and Distribution, Cleartrip, told the paper.