Domestic air travellers denied boarding on overbooked flights will get up to five times higher compensation from August. Compensation for unplanned waits at airports owing to flight delays and last-minute cancellations more than doubled in the new policy on passengers’ rights issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Saturday evening.
Passengers bumped off over packed flights are common these days, particularly during peak seasons. There were 1,873 such fliers in May, which is one of the busiest months owing to summer holidays in schools. While those passengers were eligible for a maximum compensation of Rs4,000, travellers facing a similar treatment from next month could demand up to Rs20,000 penalty from domestic airlines, the circular said.
Domestic carriers must pay up to Rs10,000 for cancelling a flight at the last minute, up from a maximum of Rs4,000 now. The aviation safety regulator has applied the same yardsticks for reimbursing fliers who are facing unscheduled flight delays. For instance, passengers held up at an airport for more than two hours can demand compensation of up to Rs10,000.
“The matter of fliers missing connecting flights owing to a last-minute cancellation or unplanned delays have also been covered in the civil aviation requirement (CAR) based on feedback from stakeholders,” said M Sathiyavathy, head of the DGCA. The draft policy released in June had not accommodated such passengers. The policy added that foreign carriers must compensate fliers based on policies formed in their home countries
Domestic airlines did not respond to HT’s query seeking their comments on the CAR.
Industry observers, however, pointed out that the policy has included air traffic congestion among ‘extraordinary circumstances’ beyond airlines control. The rules permit airlines to walk away without any compensation in case of flight disruptions recorded under this category. “This kind of waiver is fair for weather-induced delays or disruptions caused by labour unrest. But airlines are partly responsible to congestion at airports,” said a member with an independent committee set up to address fliers’ grievances by the civil aviation ministry. The policy also lets off airlines if fliers fail to submit adequate personal information. “This is a grey area. Who will sit in judgment as it is entirely left to the airline. This will lead to dispute,” said Sudhakar Reddy, national president with the Air Passengers’ Association of India.
The DGCA note directed airlines to submit data of fliers facing denied boarding, delays and cancellations every month with the regulator. “They will also have to spell out the revised rules on their websites,” added a DGCA official.