Currently, airlines are required to pay compensation of Rs 5,000-10,000 to a passenger, in addition to a ticket refund in case of flight cancellation. Soon, all that may change. However, compensation is payable if the airline does not give advance intimation to a passenger, which is at least 24 hours before departure.
Flyers, alert! Paying compensation for flight cancellations will not be mandatory for airlines.
According to the revised draft of the passenger charter of rights, domestic carriers will now have the option to provide alternative flights to passengers affected by cancellations.
Last May, the civil aviation ministry had proposed passenger-friendly measures, including cap on ticket cancellation fee, increased compensation for loss of life or baggage in accidents, and payouts for delays and cancellations.
But the proposal was put on hold because of objections from airlines, which felt the charges would impact their already stretched financials.
The airlines had also asked the government to maintain status quo on revisions.
A meeting was chaired by Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha last month to listen to airlines and airport operators’ concerns and finalise a proposal.
The ministry had sought further comments from stakeholders and was keen to issue the regulations in the next few weeks.
Currently, airlines are required to pay compensation of Rs 5,000-10,000 to a passenger, in addition to a ticket refund in case of flight cancellation.
Compensation is payable if the airline does not give advance intimation to a passenger, which is at least 24 hours before departure.
In its initial draft released last May, the ministry had made tweaks to that proposal.
Now, according to the revised draft, airlines shall either provide alternative flights which are acceptable to the passenger or provide compensation and refund the airfare.
On the ministry’s revised proposal, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has proposed the regulation should be made applicable for departures from India and for Indian carriers only.
The Federation of Indian Airlines has suggested airlines first offer alternative flights within two hours of initial departure and an airline would be liable to compensate only if the alternative flight is not suitable.
The revised proposal also states airlines have the option to provide an alternative flight or full refund in case of flights delays of up to six hours.
Also, the proposal to provide compensation for missed connections has been dropped following objections from the IATA.
“A balanced view must be taken while introducing the regulations.
"While it is good to safeguard consumer interest, the government should also consider airlines’ financial health, and the impact the regulations will have on them,” said an executive of a private airline.
The ministry has studied European and US regulations while revising its proposals, it is learnt.
Airlines would also be required to provide a lock-in option for 24 hours after booking to allow a passenger to cancel or make amendments without additional charges.
Fare difference, if any, would be applicable and the facility would available up to seven days prior to departure.
Initially it was proposed to provide the facility up to 96 hours prior to departure, but it has been revised on airlines’ suggestions.
Passengers would also be allowed to make correction in the name printed on the ticket if a mistake is pointed out within 24 hours.
Also, airlines would be required to indicate cancellation charges on the ticket, according to the revised draft.
Photograph: Greg Baker/Reuters