New Delhi: Air passengers will soon have a reason to smile with the government today proposing a cap on ticket cancellation charges, increased compensation for denied boarding and steep reduction in excess baggage fee levied by airlines.
Suggesting a slew of passenger-centric measures, the Civil Aviation Ministry said airlines will have to refund all statutory taxes in case of flight cancellations.
Aviation regulator DGCA has proposed that "under no circumstances the cancellation charges be more than the basic fare" and carriers cannot levy additional charge to process the refund.
In case of checked-in baggage, the airlines would be charging Rs 100 per kilogram for baggage weight in excess of 15 kg till 20 kg. At present, Rs 300 is levied on every kilogram of baggage beyond the 15-kg limit. Only Air India allows free baggage up to 23 kg. With regard to denied boarding, mainly due to overbooking, the government has proposed compensation up to Rs 20,000 subject to certain conditions.
In case of flight cancellations announced within 24 hours of departure, compensation amount enhanced to upto Rs 10,000. Besides, the Ministry has proposed measures to help passengers with reduced mobility.
Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said the measures are being proposed as there have been complaints from passengers that issues are not getting resolved within a reasonable time. To bring in the new measures, the DGCA has suggested changes to three civil aviation requirements and to an air transport circular.
They would be put up for public consultations before taking a final decision. In January-March period, 10 Indian carriers accounted for a total of 18,512 delayed flights, according to the data presented in Parliament during the Budget session.
Of this, budget carrier Indigo alone had 5,426 delayed flights, followed by full service carrier Jet Airways with 5,040 flights. National carrier Air India also had 3,111 delayed flights, while low-cost domestic carrier Spicejet had 2,205 delayed flights, according to the data.
DGCA chief M Sathiyavathy said the proposals have been discussed with the airlines and "they are on board". "We don't expect any resistance from the airlines," she
said. For denied boarding and flight cancellations, DGCA proposed revised compensation structures depending on the arrangement of an alternative flight for the traveller.
An amount equal to 200 per cent of booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge subject to the maximum limit of Rs 10,000 would be given in case the carrier arranges the alternative flight within 24 hours of the scheduled departure. The quantum would go up to 400 per cent of booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge and the maximum would be Rs 20,000 where the alternative flight is provided after 24 hours.
"In case the passenger does not opt for an alternative flight, refund of full value of ticket and compensation equal to 400 per cent of booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge, subject to maximum of Rs 20,000 will be given," the regulator said.
According to the watchdog, no compensation would be paid if a passenger is informed about the cancellation at least two weeks before the scheduled departure and if the airline has arranged another flight depending on the passenger's convenience. This would be applicable, subject to conditions, even on instances where the cancellation has been informed less than two weeks and up to 24 hours before the scheduled departure.
In such a case, there would be no compensation if the carrier has arranged alternative flight scheduled to depart within two hours of their booked scheduled departure. In cancellations, the financial compensation would be Rs 5,000 or booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge, whichever is less, for flights having a block time of up to one hour.
This quantum would be Rs 7,500 in case of flights having a block time of one to two hours. For flights having a block time of more than two hours, the financial compensation would go up to Rs 10,000. Block hours refer to the moment a commercial aircraft leaves the departure gate until it lands and reaches the arrival gate, or till its engines are working.
Airlines would be required to refund "all statutory taxes and User Development Fee (UDF)/Airport Development Fee (ADF)/ Passenger Development Fee (PSF) to the passengers in case of cancellation/non-utilisation of tickets/no show". As per existing CAR, carriers have to return PSF collected by them in case of cancellation of a flight. Besides, return of taxes and fee would be applicable for all types of fares including "promos/special fares and where the basic fare is non-refundable".
DGCA has suggested that the option of holding refund amount in credit shell by the airline would be the prerogative of the passenger. It has been proposed that the onus of the refund of tickets, which are booked through travel agent or portal, would be on the carriers.
"The refund process shall be completed within 15 working days in case of domestic travel and 30 working days in case of international travel," DGCA said. For foreign airlines, the refund would be in accordance with the regulations of their respective countries while the mode of refund would be governed by Indian norms.
Seeking to put in place more friendly measures for people with reduced mobility, the regulator has proposed that airlines should develop a procedure for making advance request of stretcher and same should be displayed on the airline's website. Among others, airports would provide "towable ramp to such people in case ambulift or aerobridge facility 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," the regulator said. For sensitisation and creating awareness about assisting people with disability or reduced mobility, airlines, airport operators, security personnel, customs and immigration departments would conduct training programmes for their personnel. It would be done as per the training module provided by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.