Airlines to be penalized for not compensating offloaded passengers

September 15th, 2008 - 12:06 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Sep 15 (IANS) Airlines will be penalised for delaying compensation to passengers denied boarding due to over-booking or flight cancellation, a top official has said.”We are watching the issue very closely. In the next two months, you can expect action against airline operators if they continue to violate norms and harass passengers,” said Kanu Gohain, director general of civil aviation, in an interview with IANS.

“We were flooded with complaints from passengers. So, we had framed the guidelines to discipline the airlines and offer some respite to them,” Gohain said, referring to the move initiated in May.

“The airlines will have to comply,” he said.

In May, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the industry regulator, had drafted a policy to empower passengers under which a slab-based compensation was stipulated. Airlines have to follow this in case of long delays, flight cancellations or denied boarding.

The norms require all scheduled and non-scheduled carriers to refund the ticket cost immediately.

This apart, the compensation was also set at Rs.5,000 for sectors shorter than 1,500 km, Rs.8,000 for up to 3,500 km, and Rs.12,000 for flights longer than 3,500 km and for all international destinations.

The compensation package is not applicable under “extraordinary circumstances”, in cases where operations were impossible because of calamities, emergencies or riots.

According to a senior official in the civil aviation ministry, airline operators are pressurising the government to waive the penalty clause proposed by the regulator, or to reduce the compensation to the basic fare.

But the base fare, in many cases, is as low as Rs.99, which is hardly seen as adequate compensation.

India carriers say they want the penalty to be reduced to the base fare to tide over the financial losses they are suffering due to an overall downturn in the industry and high prices of aviation fuel.

“Since seats are a perishable commodity, airlines will book to the number of expected no-shows by passengers,” said the executive director of Air India, Jitender Bhargava. “But no passenger is denied boarding.”

Aviation industry officials said that airlines in India tended to overbook around three percent, in both the domestic and international sectors, based on historic data of “no-shows” by passengers for that airline during specific periods.

They said all carriers, except budget carriers, practised this.

“We don’t overbook since there is no provision for cancellation of tickets or of claiming refunds,” said Samyukth Sridharan, chief commercial officer of budget carrier SpiceJet.

The civil aviation ministry official said while global carriers followed the practice of extending compensation to all sectors, Indian carriers restricted it to international operations.

He said for international routes, a passenger denied boarding is paid Rs.15,840 depending on the route.

In addition, hotel accommodation is provided till passengers are able to catch the next available flight.

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