“It’s the economy stupid,” said an airline executive I know. While innovative ways to price various services is the global airline model these days, there are days it gets too much and some of these are ahead of us!
Airlines are in dire straits in India but that is something we all know. No one is helping them stay afloat is also well-known. The recent service tax on flying adds to the government’s coffers, while the zooming airport charges are bringing on more fees on the passengers to keep the airport operators happy. After all, airlines are left with no choice but to operate from various airports so they have a monopoly in their respective markets.
However, with plummeting profits the airlines are getting ready to nickel and dime for each and every service they offer, and if you really want to save some money, you should keep an eye for these charges and avoid them!
First of all, let’s pick the biggest airline in the Indian market. Jet Airways and JetKonnect have recently put out a slew of new charges which have left their passengers unhappy. Their first moves were on their frequent flyers, who also held their co-branded credit cards with Citibank. One fine day in September 2011, Jet Airways/Citibank almost doubled the bar on spending which would get them one free upgrade coupon from the airline. Next, they imposed a Rs150 transaction charge per ticket, per passenger, per transaction to issue fresh tickets/ change tickets /refund tickets at a Jet Airways/JetKonnect ticketing office. And yes, even if you called them on their helpline, you are liable for this charge. I’ve used some bit of airline ticketing systems as a hobbyist, but I can’t imagine the workload would be so much as to have an airline make me pay for the salaries of their employees. Cancellation fees on tickets have gone up from Rs750 per segment to Rs950, and they’ve started charging for all sorts of requests such as “Travel Certificates”.
Next up, from 1st January 2012, they withdrew lounge access at 11 airports in India for their frequent flyers. In March 2012, when they claimed they were offering higher mileage on their frequent flyer program to all domestic segments, they credited about 20% less. The blame went straight away to a “system glitch” which has not been rectified yet. The problem here is that miles have a financial value on the liabilities side of an airline’s balance sheet, and they are taking less of it than they are responsible for.
The latest move has, however, left me wondering. Airports in India have a regressive requirement of the security forces sighting proof of travel before letting the passengers access the airport. The IATA, the governing body of air ticketing regulations globally, banished paper tickets since 2008. Therefore, you needed a printout of your e-ticket or boarding pass to access the airport. Not to mean this serves the purpose since anybody can create an e-ticket with a computer and printer at their homes and still access the airport. Jet Airways has now imposed a new Rs50 charge to give you a printout of your ticket at their offices (airport or city). Their clarification reads that this is extra work for their staff and hence passengers who need a new printout should pay for it.
Conceptually not a bad thought, but it leaves a lot of people high and dry for they would ideally like to access the airport with their tickets in their e-mail or smart phones, but airport operators and airlines are now trying to monetise this requirement.
And Jet Airways is not the only one at fault here. Kingfisher Airlines, running a very truncated schedule, has resorted to charging an excess baggage charge from everyone who is even slightly deviant of their published baggage guidelines. All the low-cost carriers already charge Rs50-Rs150 “per transaction”, but it has always been a part of their model from day one, so no one can fault them on those.
IndiGo, which is a professionally- run operation, has also resorted to some of these tactics as well. However, most of these don’t impact all of us at all times. Wheelchair assistance services for passengers who needed one used to be free at a point of time, and now have been made chargeable by them. For the record, other airlines, even low-cost ones such as GoAir and SpiceJet don’t charge for this service till date.
So, if we are missing Air India in this list, do take note, they are anyways surviving on the money we pay as tax-payers, it is simply great that they don’t charge all these ancillary fees. And after writing this for you, my only advise to you to have a reasonably-costed flight on your travels is: Be healthy, book early, don’t change your plans, pack light, travel with your ticket print-out and buy your own food before you get on the plane. Else, get ready to pay for every step of the way as you fly to your destination.
AJ writes a travel and aviation focussed blog from India at www.livefromalounge.com. You can follow him at @livefromalounge on Twitter.
The president’s endorsement of gay marriage was a leap of faith but also had an eye on opinion polls. It actually may be Obama’s insurance policy if the economy tanks
It looked as if it was well choreographed. First President Obama’s education secretary Arne Duncan said that he supported gay marriage. Then Vice-President Joe Biden said in a “Meet the Press” programme that he was absolutely comfortable with gay marriage. And then the president stepped in and endorsed gay marriage. In a hastily called interview he told ABC’s Robin Roberts said that at a certain point, “I have just concluded that for me personally, it is important for me to go ahead and affirm that I think same-sex couples should be able to get married”. He said that he had come to this decision after speaking with his wife Michelle and his daughters Malia and Sasha, some of whose friends’ parents were gay, and that his views on gay marriage had finally evolved and he was endorsing it.
Democratic officials later commenting on the decision called it a matter of conscience and not a political calculation while Republican officials called it a distraction. It seems that the president had originally planned to announce it sometime before the Democratic Convention later in the year but the Vice-President’s comment and endorsement of views had forced him to endorse it earlier.
It was immediately evident that America had come a very long way since President Bill Clinton’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” policy for gays in the military which effectively allowed gay soldiers to work in the military without harassment. The policy ensured that soldiers would not be asked to reveal their sexual orientation by the military and hence would be able to maintain their privacy. But they could not be openly gay. President Obama himself had been sitting on the fence about his support or opposition for gay marriage though the “Don’t Ask, Don’t tell” policy had been repealed as being too restrictive.
America has also been moving in favour of gay marriage with now a simple majority favouring gay marriage, a number which is increasing with each passing year. The momentum seems to be only gathering steam and what used to be a plurality has now become a majority. A participant summed it up beautifully on the State of the Union Programme on CNN—she said that the fact of the matter was that her parents knew no openly gay people or had no gay friends but she has several. It seems that once you know someone who is gay your view on gay relationships and gay marriage change even if the people you ‘know’ are only characters on TV soaps.
Immediately this announcement roiled the election campaign. Mitt Romney had tried to pre-empt Obama’s announcement by reiterating as stand that marriage was a union between a man and a woman. At Liberty University, an important Christian college, he reiterated his stand. Mitt Romney is not only against gay marriage but is also against civil unions between gay people something supported by President George Bush.
The president’s announcement was a leap of faith but also had an eye on opinion polls. Recent opinion polls indicated that a majority supported gay marriage. Recent opinion polls also indicated that a majority of independent voters supported gay marriage—but no one quite knows how the announcement would play out. He seemed to have gained a boost in fund raising with gay couples stopping off on the highway to send money by the Internet and at least in the liberal press the coverage was mostly positive. They positioned it as a civil rights issue—perhaps the most important one since the Civil Rights Act. It was framed as an issue; as an issue of constitutionality Vs issue of Christianity. But they were jumping the gun a little. Congress leaders are no closer to repealing the Defence of Marriage Act which defined marriage as the union between a man and a woman and it was unlikely to happen anytime soon. In a mostly Christian nation theirs was as pushback. Some said this marriage in the Garden of Eden was between Adam and Eve and not Adam and Steve. Some called for a constitutional amendment defining marriage as a union between men and women.
The airwaves across the world burst into frenzied opinionating . Some said that any couple in love should be allowed to make permanent their relationship whatever their sexual orientation. There were couples from Nigeria and India which supported gay marriage (the Indian couple said they were engaged and hoped to get married in 18 months. The floodgates seemed to have opened and everyone tried to get a word in.
But Obama’s getting off the fence clearly has some risks. A lot of black churches who support the president are opposed to gay marriage. Also it is less than certain how swing voter states like in North Carolina (which passed an amendment defining marriage); Ohio, a key swing state; and Virginia will vote but Obama has clearly added another arrow to his election campaign apart from the economy. It actually may be Obama’s insurance policy if the economy tanks.
(Harsh Desai has done his BA in Political Science from St Xavier's College & Elphinstone College, Bombay and has done his Master's in Law from Columbia University in the city of New York. He is a practicing advocate at the Bombay High Court.)
The BCCI also decided to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the incident by Ravi Sawani, former chief of the ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit
New Delhi: Five uncapped Indian players on Tuesday were suspended with immediate effect pending completion of an inquiry as a rattled Board of Control for Cricket (BCCI) cracked the whip on tainted cricketers in the wake of a television sting operation which claimed to have exposed corruption in the cash-rich Indian Premier League (IPL), reports PTI.
BCCI, headquartered at Mumbai, is the national governing body for all cricket in India. The strong action to suspend Mohnish Mishra, Shalabh Srivastava, TP Sudhindra, Amit Yadav and Abhinav Bali was taken after a lengthy tele-conference of top BCCI officials and members of the IPL's Governing Council.
The BCCI decided to conduct a preliminary inquiry into the incident by Ravi Sawani, former chief of the ICC's Anti-Corruption Unit who is now heading the BCCI's newly set-up Anti-Corruption Unit.
"The IPL Governing Council met on teleconference today at 2:30pm and they recommended to the BCCI President for strict action against those players who were found guilty and found suspicious on the television footage shown on India TV," IPL Chairman Rajiv Shukla told reporters.
"Since it also involved matter relating to other matches and previous IPL, it was referred to the President. The president after due consideration has decided to have a preliminary inquiry for which a commissioner has been appointed. Mr Sawani who was the ICC ACSU chief and now advisor will conduct the inquiry and he will submit a report to the Disciplinary Committee," he said.
"Pending inquiry the five players have been suspended from all cricket activities with immediate effect. We will await the report of the preliminary inquiry and proper action will be taken only after that," he added.
Television channel India TV yesterday claimed to have blown the lid off "murky deals" in the IPL among players, organisers, owners and big guns of Indian cricket.
That some tough measures would be taken against the players was evident when the BCCI president N Srinivasan, who is currently at Kodaikanal, made it clear that no player would be spared if found guilty.
He admitted that he was surprised by the sting operation and reiterated the BCCI's zero tolerance towards corruption in cricket.
"We will not tolerate this nonsense. We have zero tolerance on corruption and you will not be disappointed by the action we take," he said.
"Some evidence have been found against some players," he added.
The TV sting operation which was aired at prime time yesterday created a flutter in the Indian cricket establishment prompting the BCCI to react quickly. It took less than 24 hours for the cricket body to take action against the players.
The channel had claimed it had done a sting operation in which many players confessed on hidden camera they get much more than their prescribed auction under the table.
According to the channel, its operation also revealed that spot-fixing is not only prevalent in IPL but also that first class matches are fixed and women played an important role in match-fixing.
The IPL's Governing Council had sought video footage from the TV channel and is understood to have scrutinised the tapes before taking the decision of suspending the players.