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.