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Centre releases charter on rights of air travellers

The draft, which was opened for public feedback for a month on May 21, received responses from airlines, the air passengers’ association, airport operators and frequent flyers as well.

india Updated: Feb 28, 2019 13:34 IST
Faizan Haidar
Faizan Haidar
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
charter on air passengers rights,civil aviation ministry,air travellers
Airline passengers will be able to make changes in flight bookings and cancel trips without paying a fee within 24 hours of reserving a seat and seven days before departure, according to the charter.(Sanjeev Verma/HT Photo )

India’s civil aviation ministry is ready to notify a long-awaited charter of passenger rights that, while diluting some provisions that were in the draft at the request of airlines, does increase the protection and compensation amounts for passengers in cases of deficient service.

For instance, airline passengers will be able to make changes in flight bookings and cancel trips without paying a fee within 24 hours of reserving a seat and seven days before departure, according to the charter.

Even cancelling a ticket after 24 hours of booking a seat won’t be too expensive. The aviation ministry has asked airlines to refund such passengers the user development fee, airport development fee, statutory taxes and passenger service fee apart from the basic fare and fuel surcharge.

For lost baggage, compensation for which wasn’t stipulated so far for domestic passengers, a maximum compensation of Rs 20,000 with per kg compensation not exceeding Rs 350 will be given.

“The passenger charter, notification of which will be issued in a day or two, basically lists out the entitlement of passengers. Some of these existed before, but passengers were not aware of them and some we have introduced for the first time. Passenger will get a copy of it with the ticket and it will also be available at the airports and on aircraft,” a civil aviation ministry official said on condition of anonymity. The charter was supposed to have been notified by July 2018, but was put on hold owing to objections by airlines and the financial crunch some of them are battling. Subsequently, the ministry diluted some aspects of the charter.

For example, the draft passenger charter specified that in case of lost, delayed, or damaged baggage is lost, delayed or damaged, the limit of liability to be paid would be the same for both international and domestic flights. The minimum compensation was to be Rs 3,000 per kg for loss of baggage, Rs 1,000 per kg for delay and Rs1,000 per kg for damage.

However, in the notification likely to be released this week, the compensation is different for international and domestic airlines and fixed at a maximum of R 350 per kg for domestic carriers. Liability for international carrier is limited to 1131 SDR (Special Drawing Rights) and should not exceed 19 SDR per kg.The ministry has also fixed maximum compensation amount of Rs 20,000 beyond which an airline will not have to pay for delay, damage or lost baggage.

The draft, which was opened for public feedback for a month on May 21, received responses from airlines, the air passengers’ association, airport operators and frequent flyers as well.

The charter proposed that passengers must be provided hot snacks and beverages free of cost if their flight is delayed and stationed on the tarmac for over 60 minutes. They should be allowed to disembark if the waiting period crosses 120 minutes, it added.

The ministry has also spelled out the rights of passengers with disabilities. No airline can refuse to carry such passengers “ along with your assistive aids/devices, escorts and guide dogs”.

If a passenger is denied boarding due to overbooking, “the airline is liable to pay a compensation of Rs 5,000 or more, depending on the ticket value,” another rule says.

If an airline is unable to arrange a seat for such passenger within one hour of the original flight, an amount equal to 200% of the booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge, subject to a maximum of Rs 10,000, will have to be paid by an airline in case it arranges an alternative flight that is scheduled to depart within the 24 hours of the original departure time.

The amount increases to 400% of the booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge, subject to a maximum of Rs 20,000, in case an airline arranges an alternative flight that is scheduled to depart more than 24 hours after the original departure time.

When contacted for reaction, airline federation officials did not respond to phone calls. Air Passengers’ Association of India could also not be reached for comment.

First Published: Feb 28, 2019 13:34 IST