Cases of air travellers denied a seat despite carrying a confirmed ticket saw a sharp rise in May, showed data released by the civil aviation ministry.
The peak summer travel month saw 1,873 cases of boarding being denied, the highest this year and more than double witnessed in May last year (862). Also, the rise in such travellers was nearly 40% more than April, which was the highest until now.
“I am wary about booking flights during vacations,” said Suraj Tomar, an Airoli resident, who was denied a seat during the Easter weekend as the flight to Goa was overbooked.
The 37-year-old entrepreneur spent Rs2,500 above the full refund to get spot tickets for the packaged tour.
Airlines are permitted to sell seats up to 15% above a plane’s capacity in anticipation of last-minute cancellations and stray passengers who missed their flights. But it seemed they might have miscalculated the festive rush, said ministry officials.
“Flight-booking patterns have become extremely dynamic with the use of smartphones. Airlines need to have a relook at overbooking quotas, particularly during peak travel periods,” said an official.
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.
“Many leisure travellers book flights up to seven to nine months earlier to take advantage of flash sales. A significant section of such bookings are cancelled or revised closer to the date of travel. As a result, airlines continue to overbook,” said an executive with a travel portal.
But the menace could be short-lived, said industry experts hinting at the flier-friendly new civil aviation policy draft.
It has proposed maximum compensation of Rs20,000, five times higher than the existing rules in addition to a full refund.
Domestic fliers’ rights
In case you are denied boarding, here’s what you can claim:
• A full refund
• Re-booking on another flight to your destination
• Arranging alternative mode of transport to the destination
Rs2,000: For flights with a travel time of less than an hour
Rs3,000: For flights with a travel time of less than two hours
Rs4,000: For flights with a travel time exceeding two hours
Compensation proposed in new draft
If an airline fails to provide alternative flight within an hour of the booked ticket
1. Maximum compensation of Rs 10,000 if an airline provides an alternative flight within 24 hours
2. Maximum compensation of Rs 20,000 if the alternative flight is provided beyond 24 hours
3. Maximum compensation of Rs 20,000 and full refund if a passenger refuses to take alternative flights
How to avoid being denied a seat
Web check-in or check-in early: One of the best ways to avoid being denied a seat is to check-in early. Web check-in for many airlines open 48 hours before the journey. In case you are unable to do so, collect your boarding pass from the self check-in booths, instead of waiting in a queue.
Pick a seat: When an airline assigns you a seat, it becomes cumbersome for the crew to deny you a journey. But budget carriers charge extra for large leg-room seats. So, if you don’t wish to spend more, pick a seat in the middle isle.
Avoid rush hours: If possible, avoid taking flights during peak rush hours — 7am to 10am and 6pm to 9pm — particularly if you are shuttling between metros. It’s also prudent to skip travel dates that coincide with festivals and long weekends.
Budget airlines could be a good option: Some no-frill carriers have a no-overbooking policy. So, for urgent trips, such as a medical emergency at home, travel operators advise avoiding full-service airlines.
Royalty programmes: Airlines tend to give first preference to travellers belonging to their frequent flier schemes; offloading such passengers could be the last thing on their mind. Therefore, pick airlines that offer such programmes.