You book your air ticket well in advance to take advantage of the lower fares. However, when you reach the airport, you find that your flight has been cancelled and the airline is not willing to make alternate arrangements.
That’s the fate of a number of air passengers these days and their complaints against airlines fall under three categories: (a) where the passengers are not even informed by the airlines about the cancellation and only get to know of it when they arrive at the airport (b) where they are informed about the cancellation, but the airline is not willing to make alternate arrangements and fly them at the same fare and (c) where they are not getting the refund for the cancelled flight. These complaints come under the category of ‘deficient service’, for which consumers are entitled redress, including compensation, under the Consumer Protection Act. Far more important, they all violate the directives of the aviation regulator.
Now, if you look at the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) issued (in August 2010 and revised in January 2011) by the Director General of Civil Aviation, under the head ‘facilities to be provided to passengers by airlines due to denied boarding, cancellation and delays in flights’, it clearly mandates that airlines give advance information to passengers on cancellation or re-scheduling of flights. And, if the airlines fail to do that, they have to pay relief for the inconvenience caused to the passenger.
It also stipulates that airlines make alternate travel arrangements for the passenger at no extra cost and if he does not want to take that offer, refund the cost of the ticket. Airlines are also required to provide food and accommodation too, where needed, to passengers waiting for the alternate flight. Similarly, on refund of tickets, the CAR issued on May 12, 2008, says in case of credit card payments, refund shall be made by the airlines within seven days of cancellation and in case of cash, refund shall be immediate. You can get details on these CARs from the website of the DGCA (dgca.nic.in/rules/car-ind.htm - Look at Section 3-Air Transport, Series M).
R Raveendran: I am a senior citizen. I booked an air ticket on October 6, 2011, to travel from Delhi to Mumbai on November 14. On October 29, I got a mail from the airline informing me that the flight has been cancelled for operational reasons and that I can get the refund or an alternate ticket on their sister concern. I opted for the latter, but till now, they have not got back to me and I am unable to contact them on the numbers provided by them. Nor do they respond to my e-mails.
Answer: The DGCA directives that I have referred to, also mandate that each airline appoint a nodal officer and an appellate authority to settle passenger grievances in a stipulated timeframe and display this information on the website. Please get their contact details on the airline’s website and tell them if they fail to make alternate arrangements for your travel as promised, you will have no alternative but to make your own arrangements and the airline has to pay you for the additional cost incurred by you as a result. I would also suggest that you complain to the DGCA.