India’s Government is to require the country’s airlines to have assigned seating on all flights under a change to civil aviation law, in a move that will directly affect market-leading low-cost carrier Air Deccan.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation says in a statement that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation has issued a new Civil Aviation Requirement making it illegal for Indian-registered airlines to have free seating policies, whereby passengers are not assigned seats before boarding.

It says the new law is being introduced “to ensure correct loading of aircraft and keeping the centre of gravity of the aircraft within limits at all times during flight”.

“Specific seats will be allotted to all passengers at all stations. The row and seat numbers will be indicated on the boarding passes,” it adds.

“The allotment of specific seat numbers will ensure that the boarding of aircraft is carried out in a smooth and orderly manner and there is no confusion as to which seats passengers are required to occupy.

“In addition, such allocation of seat numbers will also facilitate quick head-count of passengers for tallying with passenger manifest entries as and when required.

“Furthermore, in the unlikely event of an aircraft accident or in the case of unlawful interference with the aircraft, the seat numbers allotted to individual passengers will assist follow-up action/investigation.”

air deccan

The move will only affect fast-growing Air Deccan, which now operates around 350 flights per day, all on a “free seating” basis.

Like several other strict low-cost operators in other parts of the world, it has said that not assigning seats to passengers helps it keep costs down, in part by allowing for quicker passenger boarding.

It is protesting against the new Civil Aviation Requirement.