The air passengers will soon have plenty of reasons to rejoice. The ministry of civil aviation has released draft passenger charter that defines the rights of air passengers. A long list of rules aims to empower passengers in case of flight delays, cancellations and other forms of inconveniences caused by the airlines. The crucial points include:
1. The draft has capped the cancellation charges, and it will never exceed the basic fare plus fuel surcharge in any circumstance. At the moment, each airline follows its own cancellation policy. For instance, market leader IndiGo takes a minimum of Rs 3,000 on cancellations. GoAir charges Rs 2,950 for cancellations beyond two hours of departure. The step will certainly benefit passengers who are flying on shorter routes as fares on short-haul flights are lower than the current cancellation charges of the airlines. It will also put a tight leash on the airlines that change their cancellation charges frequently.
2. Passenger will be allowed the cancel or amend tickets within 24 hours of booking ticket without bearing any cost. Some airlines like Vistara and Jet Airways are already offering this facility to their flyers.
3. If there's a delay of more than 4 hours, the airlines have to offer full refund of ticket to the passenger. Also, if the delay involves the flight to fly on the next day, the airlines have to offer free hotel accommodation. Last month, aviation regulator DGCA reported 81,191 cases of delays beyond two hours. IndiGo had the highest number of passengers - 29248 - affected by the delays beyond two hours, and the airline offered free refreshments to those affected.
4. According to draft, the airlines will have to pay a minimum compensation of Rs 5,000 (or more depending on ticket price) in case the passenger is denied boarding on the plane on account of overbooking by the airline. Overbooking is one of the biggest menaces that the regulator has not managed to curb. Despite their fancy software, airlines in India frequently indulge in overbooking to ensure effective use of capacity. Early this year, DGCA had told Delhi High Court that it does not allow overbooking of flights and airlines are liable to compensate passengers. With the charter, there's finally a rule in place.
5. The most interesting point in the draft includes all airports to provide passengers with free 30-minutes Wi-Fi services. Currently, the free Wi-Fi services are available for local mobile numbers and passengers with international roaming packs. In addition, the draft highlights that both domestic and international airlines are allowed to offer internet services and mobile services on-board an aircraft in Indian airspace, and interested stakeholders need to apply for licenses and regulatory clearances.
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