More than 2,100 domestic fliers were not allowed to board aircraft despite having valid boarding cards in November, the highest number this year, showed the aviation safety regulator’s data. This happened primarily because most flights were overbooked.
The cases were also a few hundred more than those recorded during the same time last year, the data revealed.
Airlines are permitted to sell seats up to 15% above a plane’s capacity in anticipation of last-minute cancellations and stray passengers who miss flights. But the spike in the number of passengers denied boarding during vacations indicated gross wrong estimation by airlines, said industry observers.
“The second-highest denied boarding cases were recorded in May (1,873) when many set off on family vacations because schools were shut for summer vacations. This indicates airlines need to review their booking patterns during holidays,” said a senior executive with an aviation think-tank, on condition of anonymity. For instance, on December 2, a Bhopal-bound Jet Airways flight was held up at Mumbai for two hours because the crew did not have seats for 17 bona fide fliers. The airline spokesperson blamed a technical glitch for the fiasco, which led to overbooking ‘above the norm’.
Most airlines use software programmes, which suggest selling more than the available number of seats in a flight, based on an algorithm drawn from last-minute cancellations observed earlier.
In November, 1,603 Jet Airways passengers were denied seats, the highest among domestic airlines, followed by SpiceJet (434) and Air India (106), the data from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation added.
In August, the civil aviation ministry raised the compensation for fliers denied a seat by five times, to up to Rs20,000. But that has failed to discipline airlines ostensibly owing to gaps in the implementation of the policy. “India’s domestic market still has several new fliers who are unaware of their rights. As a result, the government should appoint an ombudsman to fight for travellers’ rights,” said a member of the Civil Aviation Economic Advisory Council, an independent panel formed by the ministry, requesting anonymity. Last month, domestic airlines paid Rs.84.17 lakh as compensation to such fliers.