The recent proposal by the country’s aviation regulator the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to amend rules related to airlines downgrading fliers owing to factors such as unserviceable seats, change of aircraft and overbooking has put the spotlight firmly back on passenger rights.
“The amendment will allow the passenger, who is downgraded involuntarily from his booked class of ticket, to receive the full value of ticket including taxes as refund from the airline and the airline will carry the passenger free of cost in the next available class,” the Ministry of Civil Aviation has said in a terse statement.
This latest proposition will, however, become applicable after being evaluated by all stakeholders.
India is currently the fastest-growing aviation markets globally. Passengers carried by domestic airlines during January-September 2022 were 8.74 crore as against 5.31 crore during the corresponding period in 2021, registering an annual growth of 64.61 per cent and monthly growth of 46.54 per cent. However, as more people choose air over other modes of transport, they not only need to be aware of their rights but also the dos and don’ts while inflight.
Rules for compensation
Under redressal currently available for flight delays, in case of a delay of more than 24 hours, the airline is required to offer hotel accommodation with transfers. Complimentary meals and refreshments have to be served to the passenger who has checked in on time and faced a delay of two hours or more in accordance with the Civil Aviation Rules (CAR).
In case of a flight cancellation, if the same is notified two weeks prior to departure, an alternate flight or refund has to be furnished by the airline. If the flight is cancelled less than two weeks but 24 hours before departure, the airline is required to make provision for shifting the passenger to an alternate flight within two hours of the booked scheduled departure. A failure by the airline to inform the passengers in accordance with the prescribed CAR rules, not only warrants a full refund but also compensation ranging from Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000, depending on the block time. In airline jargon, the block time is defined as the flight time plus taxi-time before take-off and taxi time after landing of the flight.
It may be noted that the passenger is not entitled to a compensation if the flight is delayed or cancelled due to force majeure events or extraordinary circumstances, including civil war, political instability, insurrection or riots, explosion, natural disasters, floods, security risks, meteorological conditions, strikes and labour disputes, government regulation or order affecting the aircraft, slowdown or interruption of work or cancellations or delays caused by the air traffic control (ATC).
If a passenger is denied boarding despite holding confirmed ticket on a flight although they reported for departure within the time specified by the airline, they are entitled to compensation, unless
where there are reasonable grounds such as over reasons of health, safety or security or inadequate travel documentation.
If the alternate flight is scheduled to depart within the 24 hours of the scheduled departure an amount equal to 200 per cent of booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge, subject to maximum of Rs 10,000, can be claimed by the passenger. If the alternate flight is scheduled to depart more than 24 hours of the booked scheduled departure an amount equal to 400 per cent of booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge, subject to maximum of Rs 20,000 can be claimed. However, if the passenger doesn’t opt for an alternate flight, they are entitled to a full refund and compensation equal to 400 per cent of booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge, subject to maximum of Rs 20,000.
As far as lost, delayed or damaged baggage or cargo is concerned, the passenger can claim compensation if the delay or damage took place on board the aircraft or during any period within which the checked baggage was with the airline. On domestic flights, in case of loss, delay or damage to baggage, the carrier liability is limited to Rs 20,000 per passenger. In case of loss, delay or damage to cargo, the carrier liability is limited to Rs 350 per kilo.
Mind your inflight manners
Recently, the video of a heated exchange between an irate passenger and a cabin crew supervisor on an international flight operated by the country’s largest airline IndiGo went viral. According to sources, the altercation was essentially a result of the passenger being transferred from the full-service carrier Turkish Airlines the low-cost flight IndiGo as part of a codeshare agreement between the two.
“We have taken note of the event and shall take appropriate action after completing the investigation,” DGCA Arun Kumar assured Business Today.
Other than inflight services, the incident has also sparked a debate on passenger etiquette.
All through a flight, the passenger is expected to abide by the law of the land and utilise the means and resources for grievance redressal as specified by the government regulations. Unruly or disruptive behaviour on-board a flight is a criminal act for aggressive behaviour by a passenger may jeopardise safety of other passengers and crew.
DGCA rules framed in 2017, require airlines to maintain a database of all unruly or disruptive passengers and report them to the regulator and other airlines as and when they occur as part of the ‘National No-Fly List’ of unruly or disruptive passengers.
Airlines have the option of barring any person placed on the No-Fly List to, from or within India for periods ranging from three months to two years. For every subsequent offence, the person will be barred for twice the period of the previous ban.
So, next time you request for a meal replacement on a flight, give some time to the crew to come back to you with options after taking stock of their inventory. Simultaneously, airlines need to sensitise their crew on procedures to deal with unruly and disruptive passengers.
Remember, ensuring the safety of an aircraft cruising at over 30,000 ft involves a collective effort by both the inflight crew as well as passengers.
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