The Supreme Court has ordered the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to ensure that passengers are not forced to sit in the aircraft for more than three hours if a flight is unable to take off due to some emergency conditions.
A bench headed by Justice RV Raveendran ordered that no aircraft should remain on the tarmac for more than three hours after the boarding is closed. And, if the aircraft has to continue being parked on the tarmac, the passengers must be allowed to return to the airport lounge to get facilitation service from the airline.
The direction came on an appeal filed by Indigo Airlines challenging a December 2009 Andhra Pradesh high court judgment that upheld a permanent Lok Adalat for public utility services’ decision to award a Hyderabad resident R10,000 as compensation.
N Satchidnand had claimed he was forced to sit in an Indigo aircraft for more than 11 hours after the flight from Delhi to Hyderabad on December 14, 2007 got delayed due to extreme weather conditions.
The court said: “Congestion in the airport on account of the delayed and cancelled flights cannot be a ground to prevent the passengers on board from returning to the airport lounge when there is a delay of more than three hours after completion of boarding.”
However, if for unforeseen reasons, it’s not possible to permit the passengers to return to the lounge, appropriate provision for food and water should be made, apart from providing access to the toilets.
While accepting the appeal, the bench also exonerated the airlines firm of negligence charges.
The bench added that even a low-cost airline cannot absolve itself from liability for negligence, want of care or deficiency in service.