In an interesting move, India’s aviation minister, Vayalar Ravi, prohibited low fare carriers in India from charging extra for seat selection “with a view to maintaining transparency in tariff publication.”  Apparently the progressive low fare carriers in India will not be allowed to innovate, providing further protection to the unprofitable and mismanaged government-owned Air India, which Indian taxpayers are forced to prop-up with little hope of a turnaround.

Unfortunately, Minister Ravi has concluded that either Indians lack the education or intelligence to compare air fares and amenities across airlines, or that ala carte pricing is too difficult for a country with a supposedly strong IT infrastructure to implement on a transparent basis.  In this case, his decision inhibits innovation, rather than let the market choose what is best.  It is a typical “can’t be done” reaction of a bureaucrat rather than the “can do” attitude of innovators.

The real reason, of course, is the continued bailouts for Air India, as any competitive actions that threaten the government-owned carrier with more common sense — such as paying for what you actually want rather than being force-fed an unprofitable product — must be thwarted.  No wonder India’s aviation industry lags behind the rest of the Asia — government interference.  Indian air travelers deserve better.


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