Days after the Civil Aviation Ministry came out with its draft proposal defining the rights of air passengers, the airlines are up in arms against several new norms which they say may lead to expensive air fares.
According to a report in The Economic Times, domestic carriers are opposed to the new rules which involve relaxation in cancellation charges and a fatter compensation to the passengers for lost and damaged baggage.
"The government has to decide whether it wants to treat aviation as a luxury sector or wants to take it to the common man. Airfares in India are already at some of the lowest levels in the world. Yields are badly hit. At this level, such rules will have a massive impact," the report quoted an executive at a full-service carrier as saying.
The development could throw a spanner in the works of government's latest move to safeguard and empower flyers in case of flight delays, cancellations and other forms of inconveniences caused by the airlines.
The ministry, in its draft proposal, had capped the cancellation charges. Under the proposed rules, such charges would have never exceeded the basic fare plus fuel surcharge in any circumstance.
Currently, 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.
Though some full service carriers like Vistara and Jet Airways already allow passengers to make free modification or cancellation within 24 hours of booking a ticket, the proposal seeks to make this a norm for all carriers.
But what comes out as a major sore point for airlines is the proposed change in compensation for loss and damage of a baggage. "If a passenger loses a bag, compensation will be paid at the rate of Rs 3,000 per kg. For damaged baggage, the payment will be Rs 2,000 per kg. This will lead to a scam. A passenger will have another passenger collect his bag and claim it as lost. There is no way to check. The loss compensation proposed is 10 times that of what a passenger has to pay for excess baggage," a senior executive at a low-cost carrier told the daily.
According to the draft proposal, in case of 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.