New Delhi: Putting a cap on the number of 'preferred seats' on sale on each flight, the civil aviation sector regulator DGCA has allowed the airlines to book only 25 percent of the total seats in the aircraft.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation also prohibited the airlines to offer middle seats, except in the first row and the emergency exit, for preferential seating.
The civil aviation ministry had in April allowed 'unbundling' of some services, like seat preferences or meals on board, with aim to help airlines to earn ancillary revenue.
The regulator said the unbundled services must be provided on 'opt-in' and not on 'opt-out' basis.
"Seats offered on opt-in charge basis shall not exceed 25 percent of the total seat configuration of the aircraft. Middle seats shall not be offered for preferential seating except for the seats in the first row and the emergency exit row," the DGCA notification said.
The government had allowed airlines to charge passengers for preferential seating, meals, snacks, drinks (barring drinking water), check-in baggages, use of airline lounges, carriage of sports equipment and musical instruments and valuable baggages which have higher carrier liability.
The practice was launched in 2008 by some US carriers which were facing financial crunch. Their decision to charge for even the first checked baggage had then received flak from air travellers but the practice still continues with the airlines generating revenue worth millions of dollars.
In 2010-11, when some Indian carriers had started pre-booking seats, DGCA had stepped in and issued a directive asking them to withdraw the charges ranging from Rs 50 to 400.
The civil aviation ministry and DGCA had received complaints about airlines charging even for sitting sandwiched in a "middle seat" which the ministry officials said cannot be termed a preferential one.