New Delhi: Wrongly blocking passengers with confirmed tickets who reach on time from boarding will now cost airlines dear, as per new rules to be imposed shortly by the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation. With overbooking becoming rampant to make up for last-minute no shows, the government has finalised cash penalties to clamp down on this practice. Airlines will first seek volunteers in case of overbooking and offer them alternate flights.
But if someone is unwillingly and forcibly denied boarding, then the airline will have to offer him or her up to Rs 4,000 as compensation apart from providing the option of a full refund or another flight. Passengers who opt for another flight will get half the compensation amount.
More importantly, the new rules being finalised by the DGCA will also make it mandatory for airlines -- both budget and full service -- to provide refreshments when a flight is delayed for up to five hours. If the delay is beyond that, then passengers will get the option of a full refund or alternate flight. Also airlines will have to offer overnight hotel accommodation if required when a cancelled or delayed flight leaves passengers stranded.
However, airlines will not have to cough up cash penalty if the delay or cancellation is caused by "extraordinary circumstances" beyond their control like bad weather, security reasons or pilots going on strike.
The draft of this soon to be implemented rule says: "With a large number of airlines and ensuing competition between them to provide cheaper services, it is likely that the interest of the fare paying passenger is ignored and denied certain basic rights. A number of complaints have been received from passengers against treatment meted out by airlines," the draft says.
Interestingly, the compensation for denied boarding, cancellations and delays was thought of about two years ago but could not be implemented in face of stiff opposition from airlines` due to their poor financial health. "Airlines and airport managements have been given lot of relief -- by making passengers pay user development fees and higher fares -- as they needed to be saved. Now the focus is on passengers," said a senior official.
Aviation secretary M M Nambiar and DGCA chief Nasim Zaidi are learnt to have finally pushed this move through. The reason for the push at this time could be that in recent days technical snags have worsened the problem of delays and cancellations. "Some airlines are severely financially strained and we have to keep a close watch on their planes to see they are not cutting corners on safety and maintenance. DGCA has recommended that two big airlines not be allowed to add more planes till they fulfil all safety requirements for existing fleet. Safety and passenger rights are paramount," said the official.