Refunds, excess baggage and more: Changes proposed in air travel rules
The government has proposed a slew of amendments to the civil aviation rules, including reducing cancellation charges, increasing compensation if a passenger is prevented from boarding, and streamlining the process of refunds.
The proposed amendments, which have been discussed with airlines, were uploaded on the website of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation and are open of comments from the public for 15 days.
HT first reported on the proposal on June 2.
No additional charge to process refund
“Under no circumstances the cancellation charge shall be more than the basic fare. Airlines shall not levy any additional charge to process the refund,” the government has proposed. “Airlines shall refund all statutory taxes and user development fee, airport development fee, passenger service fee (PSF) to the passengers in case of cancellation, non-utilisation of tickets or no-show.”
At present, airlines return the PSF on non-utilisation and cancellation of tickets. The government has also proposed to do away with the “no show” category of passengers, whom the airlines can penalise.
Extra baggage fare lowered
Most scheduled airlines today provide free checked-in baggage allowance up to 15 kg, after which Rs 300 per kg is charged. Airlines have been asked to keep a variable checked-in baggage fare between 15-20 kg, and that passengers be charged Rs 100 per kg for excess baggage less than 20 kg.
Refund through airline, not travel agent
In case of purchase of ticket through travel agents or portals, the onus of refund shall lie with the airline as agents are their appointed representatives, the ministry has proposed. “The refund process shall be completed within 15 working days in case of domestic travel and 30 working days in case of international travel,” said aviation secretary RN Choubey.
As of now, passengers have to deal directly with their travel agent in case of refund. Furthermore, the option of holding the refund amount in “credit shell” by the airline shall be the prerogative of the passenger and not a default practice of the airline.
The proposal also mandates the refund on taxes and fees will be applicable for all types of fares offered by airline, including promos, special fares and where the basic fare is non-refundable. At present, there is no such provision for promo, special or non-refundable basic fares.
The government has also proposed to increase the compensation amount to be paid by airlines for denying boarding to passengers due to overbooking of flights.
To reduce the possibility of flight departing with empty seats, airlines generally overbook flights to a limited extent, and passengers are entitled to a compensation of Rs 2,000-4,000 or the value of the ticket (whichever is less) in such a case. A total of 1,149 passengers were denied boarding by airlines in April and were paid Rs 40.74 lakh as compensation.
However, the proposal states that no compensation will be paid if the airline arranges an alternate flight that departs within one hour of the original departure time.
It has proposed compensation up to 400% of booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge, subject to maximum of Rs 20,000, in case the airline arranges alternate flight that is scheduled to depart beyond 24 hours of the booked scheduled departure.
“In case the passenger does not opt for an alternate flight, refund of full value of ticket and compensation equal to 400% of booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge, subject to maximum Rs 20,000,” said DGCA joint director Lalit Gupta.
The government has proposed to increase the compensation for flight cancellation from the present Rs 2,000-4,000 to Rs 5,000 to Rs 10,000 or the booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge (whichever is less) in addition to refund of tickets.
However, no compensation will be paid if the passengers are informed about the cancellation two weeks before the scheduled departure and the airline has arranged an alternate flight.
Furthermore, if the proposal is implemented, airlines will have to develop a procedure for taking advance request for a stretcher and the same would be displayed on their websites.
Training programmes for personnel
Besides the airline and airport personnel, the government also wants security personnel, customs and immigration departments to conduct training programmes according to the training module of the ministry of social justice and empowerment. The aim is for all personnel engaged in passenger services to be sensitised and made aware for assisting persons with disability or reduced mobility and to ensure that they are well briefed about their responsibilities.
In the same vein, the government wants towable ramps at airports where ambulift or aerobridge facilities are not available. “Airport operator shall ensure that assistive devices being used to assist a disabled passenger are as per the standards set by the ministry of social justice and empowerment,” Gupta said.