During this 24-hour "lock-in period", passengers would be able to make correction in name or amend the travel date free of cost
In a comforting piece of news for air passengers, the government on Tuesday proposed abolishing cancellation charges for domestic flight tickets if the cancellation is made within 24 hours of booking.
However, the proposed rule won't apply if the tickets are booked less than 96 hours (four days) before the scheduled departure time of the flight.
During this 24-hour "lock-in period", passengers would be able to make correction in name or amend the travel date free of cost, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha told reporters, while unveiling the draft air passengers charter in New Delhi.
"Airline will provide lock-in option for 24 hours after booking ticket where ticket can be cancelled without any charges. This facility will be available for passenger up to 96 hours prior to flight departure," he said.
A revised release was issued by the Ministry late in the evening, said an airline "will not levy any additional charge for correction in name of the same person when name correction is required up to three characters only and when error in the name spelling is pointed out by the passenger to the airline within 24 hours of making a reservation".
While some airlines already provide this service, some do charge a fee for corrections.
The charter, however, will be binding on all airlines in domestic sector.
The charter has been placed in public domain and consultation process will be open for 30 days.
The changes could be notified in two months after the consultation process, the government said.
The charter proposes that passengers would be compensated Rs 20,000 on missing connecting flights if the delay is over 12 hours, and Rs 10,000 if the delay is between 4-12 hours.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) could look into issues where the airlines are not in agreement with the passenger on the compensation issue, he said.
According to the charter, the cancellation charges should be printed prominently in minimum font size of 12 on ticket and airline and their agents together should not, under any circumstances, levy cancellation charge more than the basic fare plus fuel surcharge.
Under the existing rules, different airlines charge varying amounts on cancellation.
There have been several complaints by passengers about airlines refusing a refund or charging inordinately hefty amount.
The charter also proposes that if the passenger is informed about cancellation of flight less than two weeks before and up to 24 hours of the scheduled departure time, the airline must offer an alternative flight allowing the passenger to depart within two hours of the booked scheduled departure time or refund the ticket, as acceptable to the passenger.
Further, if the flight delay is communicated by the airline more than 24 hours prior to original scheduled time and if the flight is delayed for more than 4 hours, then airlines will have to offer an option of full refund of ticket.
When delay is more than 24 hours from published scheduled time of departure and involves flight to fly on the next day i.e. beyond 0000 hours, a passenger is to be offered free-of-charge hotel accommodation including transfers, the revised release said.
However, the government made it clear that airlines could not be held accountable in case of weather-related disturbances.
In case of denied boarding, airlines are liable to pay a minimum compensation of Rs 5,000 or more, according to the proposed charter.
According to the revised release, when the flight is stationed on the tarmac for more than 60 minutes, sufficient and free-of-charge hot snacks and beverages are to be provided to the passengers.
If the flight is stationed on the tarmac for more than 90 minutes plus no possibility of departure in next 30 minutes, passengers must be de-boarded.
To make the airlines disabled-friendly, the charter proposes that airlines should have seats blocked which are accessible for persons with disabilities with adequate leg space, free of charge.
It said that seats should also remain blocked until close to the time of departure.
Photograph: Greg Baker/Reuters