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21 May 2024

Good news for Gulf NRIs: Air India Express raises baggage allowance

India's Minister of State for Civil Aviation KC Venugopal with the dignitaries at the Concurrent session – Young Achievers at the 12th Pravasi Bharatiya Divas in New Delhi on January 07, 2014. (Supplied)

By VM Sathish

Air India Express will increase the baggage allowance from 20kg to 30kg from January 15,  Minister of State for Aviation K C Venugopal announced in New Delhi.

According to the minister’s statement, the baggage allowance which was slashed by 10kg from August 2013 is being revised back to 30kg after a large number of Indian expatriate organisations lodged complaints about the arbitrary decision. 

The minister made the announcement during the ongoing Pravasi Bharathi Divas (PBD) in New Delhi. While agreeing to increase the baggage allowance, the minister stated that it is not feasible or practical to reduce airfare.

Venugopal underlined the Indian government’s commitment to improve travel experience.

Addressing a session on “Young Achievers” at the Youth Pravasi Bharatiya Divas, the minister said: “Air India is indebted to overseas Indians and always offers you the opportunity to fly you around. Air India had a bad time combating  debts but now we are regaining  ground. We are happy that  improved customer confidence is being reflected in the bookings as well.”

“There were certain issues and concerns about the performance of Air India Express… which is specially launched to cater to the Gulf sector. The process of empowering Air India Express as an independent business entity is progressing. We have rolled out many initiatives to make Air India Express complaint free,” he said, adding that “We have also increased our services to the Gulf, and on time performance is monitored at the apex level to ensure customer satisfaction. To hear from the NRIs personally about their concerns about Air India Express, I started a mail service too,”he said.

Temporary or permanent hike

However, travel agents are not sure whether the revised higher baggage allowance will be permanent or temporary.

Travel agents have been instructed to give 30kg allowance from January 15 to March 28. It is not yet known whether the baggage allowance will be slashed again when the peak vacation season starts. The minister has just ensured that the baggage allowance will be increased by 10kg for the specific period and the situation after that period will be reviewed. Expatriate associations are viewing it sceptically, as there is always a chance to revert back to 20kg e when the peak travel season starts during the summer school vacation in the Gulf.

Air India Express had slashed baggage allowance from 30kg to 20kg, arguing that 30kg allowance reduced the number of passengers the airline could carry. Aircraft which can carry a maximum of 180 passengers could carry only 160-165 passengers per flight as the baggage increased the load, the airline had claimed.

There has been concern among NRIs about the national carrier which is cutting down profitable routes to the Gulf and increasing airfare during peak seasons, making even the budget airlines a costly experience for many middle class and labour class passengers.

Many expat organisations in UAE including the Indian media in Abu Dhabi sent delegations and lodged complaints with the Indian government, especially Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress leader Sonia Gandhi and Aviation Minister K C Venugopal to revoke the controversial decision on baggage allowance.

Expatriates have to pay Dh50 extra for the 10kg additional baggage. After strong protest and representation from the expatriate associations, the additional fees was reduced from Dh50 per 10kg to Dh40 per 10kg. Other budget carriers charge Dh20 for the normal 20kg baggage, while Air India Express is giving it free, according to the airline officials.