If an airline can shut doors for passengers who get late even by a minute, then why shouldn’t a customer get compensated if a flight gets delayed even by an hour?
The Supreme Court has asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to examine this question and come out with a policy for domestic carriers to stop “harassment” of passengers who are left high and dry in case of a flight delay.
At present, DGCA rules make it mandatory for an airline company to refund if the flight gets late by nine hours.
But, a bench headed by Justice MB Lokur asked the DGCA to have a relook at the policy and formulate a new one after consulting the stakeholders.
“Something needs to be done. Passengers are being harassed,” the bench told the advocate representing DGCA.
The court was hearing a petition filed by Nanita Sharma, who said there should new guidelines because the one framed in 2016 was heavily loaded in favour of airlines.
Sharma has dragged GoAir to the top court and demanded compensation from the airline for being left stranded at the Mumbai airport in 2007 after her flight got delayed by four hours. The bench asked the DGCA to take into account Sharma’s suggestions too.
GoAir counsel Sanjeev Sen told the bench that since Sharma’s plea amounted to re-formulating the policy, the DGCA should invite all the companies and hold discussions before finalising the rules.
Sharma, a lawyer by profession, had booked a ticket from Mumbai to Delhi on January 30, 2007. The scheduled departure from Mumbai was at 2.15pm. However, the flight took off only at 6.50pm.
She approached the top court after both the Delhi District Consumer Forum and the State Consumer Commission declined to entertain her plea for an award of compensation of Rs 20,000 towards mental and physical agony, Rs 3,975 as refund of airfare from Mumbai to Delhi and Rs 11,000 as legal expenses.
Sharma has questioned the clauses in the policy that does not obligate an airline company to pay in case where cancellations and delays are due to extraordinary circumstances, beyond the airline’s control.
She claimed the guidelines do not spell out what is meant by “ordinary circumstance” within the control of the airlines.