People flying in the national carrier can upgrade their seat to business class by paying an additional fee. The new system facility can be availed on flights operating to the US, Europe, Australia, Japan and Hong Kong.
Air India's Chairman and Managing Director Pradeep Singh Kharola on Wednesday said that a passenger can upgrade seat from the economy class to the business class by paying an additional fee.
"You have to bid for only the incremental amount. Whatever you have paid for the economy class ticket, you have paid... There is a cap we have put on the minimum bid one can make," he said.
"People who have already booked tickets in economy class, we are giving them a chance to pay a little extra fare and come to the business class. In a layman's language, this is what we are trying to do," he explained.
This bidding system has been termed "business-lite" on Air India's website and it was launched in the last week of December.
Under the system, upgraded seats are allotted to the passenger according to priority. It works after the check-in is complete, which means when the passenger is moving towards the security check, the system sees how many business class seats are vacant.
"So, by the time you reach your boarding gate, your upgrade has been done. At the boarding gate, you are given a revised boarding pass (with a business class seat)," he said adding that a person who made the bid but did not get the upgrade will get her money back.
Air India to use food cooked in India in International flights
In another move, the national carrier has started carrying food from India for use during the journey back to the country, in an attempt to rationalise catering costs on international flights.
The debt-ridden airline has already started using food items stocked from India during its onward journey to Stockholm, Copenhagen, Birmingham and Madrid, and use them when returning. It has said food items purchased from these foreign cities are much more expensive when compared to Indian cities.
"The food is taken from here in India in chillers and then it is heated whenever it has to be used... Catering costs for us are around Rs 600 crore to Rs 800 crore a year. Catering in India is 3-4 times cheaper as compared to catering in the West," Kharola said adding that within the next a few months, Air India will start serving food from India on its flights returning from the Gulf region.
As a cost-cutting measure, Air India decided in July 2017 to not serve non-vegetarian food to economy class passengers on its domestic flights. “There are some flights like the ones going to Gulf, Singapore and even some parts of Europe, where it is possible to upload the food in India only. Some work is going on in that direction,” he said.