AI likely to scrap free meals on short-haul domestic flights
New Delhi: Air India is considering not to offer any meal on certain short-haul domestic flights and join other Indian carriers to take a fee for preferred seats.
No decision has yet been arrived at on these matters but the airline is actively considering the options, Air India sources said here.
The national carrier, which has already stopped serving hot meals on domestic flights of less than 90 minutes, could decide not to serve any food on its services which are less than one hour, the sources said.
Currently, passengers pay for having food on no-frill carriers IndiGo, Spicejet and GoAir, while full service airlines Air India and Jet Airways provide complimentary meals on all flights.
Serving of hot meals entail additional financial burden as an aircraft has to have in-flight heating systems which consume a lot of power. The cost and availability of meals on airlines has changed considerably in the recent years.
Globally, financial pressures have inspired some airlines to either begin charging for meals or abandon them altogether in favour of small snacks.
By not serving meals on short-haul sectors, Air India can achieve a faster turnaround of an aircraft, which would remain cleaner and have lesser weight on a flight, the sources said, adding that such a move would reduce costs in a major way.
Air India has already been serving cold meals like sandwiches and muffins on flights less than 90 minutes. However, passengers on long-haul domestic and all international flights are served both hot and cold meals and beverages.
On the charges for preferred seats, the sources said this was being considered but a decision would be taken only after there is some clarity on the rules governing 'unbundling' of such services by the aviation regulator DGCA.
Air India Express, the budget arm of the national carrier, had earlier announced charging for preferred seats but withdrew the proposal in face of opposition by passengers. It has already slashed the weight of free baggage allowance from 20 kg to 15 kg.
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