The Civil Aviation Ministry on Saturday introduced a host of rules that will surely give fliers some reasons to cheer.
These changes in the rules, that cover domestic and international flights involving Indian carriers, come against the backdrop of complaints by passengers and cancellation and delays of over 4,000 and 63,400 flights respectively last year.
Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said the measures followed complaints from passengers that issues concerning them are not getting resolved within a reasonable time.
Below is everything that you must know about these passenger-friendly rules:
When you cancel a flight
The Civil Aviation Ministry said airlines alone will have to refund all statutory taxes levied in the event of flight cancellations and not the agency.
Aviation regulator DGCA has proposed that "under no circumstances the cancellation charges be more than the basic fare" and carriers cannot levy additional charge to process the refund.
The financial compensation would be Rs 5,000 or booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge, whichever is less, for flights having a block time of up to one hour. This quantum would be Rs 7,500 in case of flights having a block time of one to two hours.
As per existing CAR, carriers have to return Passenger Development Fee (PSF) collected by them in case of cancellation of a flight.
"The refund process shall be completed within 15 working days in case of domestic travel and 30 working days in case of international travel," DGCA said.
For foreign airlines, the refund would be in accordance with the regulations of their respective countries while the mode of refund would be governed by Indian norms.
A situation of excess baggage
For checked-in baggage, the airlines would now be charging Rs 100 per kg for baggage weight in excess of 15 kg up to 20 kg. Only Air India allows free baggage up to 23 kg.
At present, Rs 300 is levied for every kg of baggage beyond the 15-kg limit.
With regard to denied boarding
In an event of denied boarding, mainly due to overbooking, the government has proposed a compensation of up to Rs 20,000 subject to certain conditions proposed by DGCA.
An amount equal to 200 per cent of booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge subject to the maximum limit of Rs 10,000 would be given in case the carrier arranges the alternative flight within 24 hours of the scheduled departure.
The amount would go up to 400 per cent of booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge and the maximum would be Rs 20,000 where the alternative flight is provided after 24 hours.
"In case the passenger does not opt for an alternative flight, refund of full value of ticket and compensation equal to 400 per cent of booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge, subject to maximum of Rs 20,000 will be given," the regulator said.
According to the watchdog, no compensation would be paid if a passenger is informed about the cancellation at least two weeks before the scheduled departure and if the airline has arranged another flight depending on the passenger's convenience.
In such a case, there would be no compensation if the carrier has arranged alternative flight scheduled to depart within two hours of their booked scheduled departure.
Assisting passengers with reduced mobility
Seeking to put in place more friendly measures for people with reduced mobility, the regulator has proposed that airlines should develop a procedure for making advance request of stretcher and same should be displayed on the airline's website.
Among others, airports would provide "towable ramp to such people in case ambulift or aerobridge facility are not available".
"Airport operator shall ensure that assistive devices being used to assist a disabled passenger are as per the standards set by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment," the regulator said.
"We are extremely happy that the changes that have been mooted will benefit passengers in a big way. It will encourage more people to fly and spur the growth of the domestic aviation market, which has grown fastest in the world," Air Passengers Association of India (APAI) president D Sudhakara Reddy said.
However, Amber Dubey, partner and India head of aerospace and defence at global consultancy KPMG, however, said that the proposals would have a direct bearing on airline's bottom-line.
"The Indian aviation sector is finally coming out of the woods thanks to the low oil prices, rising economy and growing aircraft fleet. It needs 3-4 years of 18-20 per cent annual growth to consolidate and expand; and to recover the huge debt and losses of the past. Care should be taken by the government not to throttle the aviation sector so much in the name of honouring public sentiments that it takes us back to square one," Dubey said.
The Government has given a two-week time to stakeholders to submit their suggestions and comments before finalising and implementing the new norms. However, the proposed changes in the excess baggage fee norm will be implemented from June 15, Director General of Civil Aviation M Sathiyavathy said.