Charter to ease air travel pushed back, airlines not on board

New Delhi, November 18, 2018: The current financial troubles Indian airlines find themselves in, and objections raised by them, have prompted the government to put on hold a so-called passenger charter detailing the rights flyers are entitled to, two civil aviation ministry officials said on condition of anonymity.

A draft of the charter said passengers could cancel tickets free of charge as long as this was done within 24 hours of booking and at least four days ahead of the scheduled departure. It also allowed them to make corrections in the name on the ticket at no extra cost. Airlines objected to both. They were also unhappy at the compensation flyers were entitled to on account of cancellation of flights or other issues and claimed this was set too high according to the reports published in hindustantimes.com.

“The airlines have requested us to look into the high compensation charges as fares in India are very low and such high compensation cannot be justified. The second main objection from them is allowing cancellation, as according to them, their business will get affected if this is done,” said one of the officials.

Under the new set of rules put forth in the document, passengers will also be entitled to a refund if the flight is delayed for over four hours even if the delay has been communicated a day in advance. Additionally, missing a connecting flight due to a delay caused by the airline could entitle flyers to a refund of anything between Rs 5,000 and Rs 20,000.

The draft, which was opened for public consultation for a month on May 21, received responses from airlines, passenger associations, airport operators and frequent air travellers. The ministry has held two rounds of meetings with the stakeholders and is yet to take a final decision on the draft.

Part of this may be prompted by the crisis airlines face.

“Airlines are posting losses due to rising fuel cost and rupee depreciation. This might not be the good time to notify the passenger charter and burden the airline further. We will wait for the industry to stabilise and then take a call on it,” said the second official.

Hindustantimes.com further added that the Air Passenger Association of India (APAI), which has been demanding a passenger charter for eight years, said the delay is unjustified.

“Someone who makes mistakes will have to pay the penalty, so why the aviation ministry protecting those who are making mistakes? If the airlines are not making profit, this might make them work more professionally,” said D Sudhakara Reddy, founder of APAI.

Still, it can’t be argued that airlines are in trouble, IndiGo, run by InterGlobe Aviation Ltd, posted its first quarterly loss since listing on the stock market and said high fuel cost, the rupee’s depreciation, and intense competition significantly impacted its profitability. It posted a net loss of ₹652.1 crore for the quarter ended September 2018.

Another low cost carrier SpiceJet also posted a quarterly loss on account of the same reasons. For the quarter ended September 2018, the airline reported a net loss of ₹389.4 crore.

Jet Airways and Air India are already in crisis and airline industry is looking for some relief from the aviation ministry.

The charter also proposed that passengers must be provided hot snacks and beverages free of cost if their flight is stationed on the tarmac for over 60 minutes. It added that they should be de-boarded if the waiting period crosses 120 minutes.

“Moreover, if a passenger is denied boarding due to overbooking, the airline is liable to pay a compensation of ₹5,000 or more, depending on the ticket value. In case any baggage is lost, delayed or damaged, the limit of liability to be paid will be the same for both international and domestic passengers. The minimum compensation will be: ₹3,000 per kg for loss of baggage, ₹1,000 per kg for delay, and ₹1,000 per kg for damage,” another rule in the draft stated.

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