January 8, 2022
To: either/view subscribers
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS – EDITION 21
Rights of Air Travellers
Good morning. Travelling by flight is one of the most enjoyable journeys you can experience. Steering past the clouds and having a bird’s eye view of the cities and oceans is an amazing experience.
Air travel not only cuts short our travel time between two countries/states/districts but is also considered as one of the more comfortable modes of transport. Imagine travelling from England to India by sea or land. It would take weeks or even months! But thanks to the Wright brothers who invented and flew the first airplane in 1903, which eventually helped us in reducing the travel time.
Air travel and its legalities
Air travel has come a long way from the days of its invention. No more waving to the crowd from the entrance of the aircraft (unless you are some political leader and being photographed by the press), no more boring long travel.
There are many private air carriers and a few government-operated carriers too. All passenger flights invariably vouch for their passengers and provide all the necessary facilities to ease their travel. But there are cases where the passengers are denied their rights.
For example, we encounter an unruly passenger in almost every flight journey. All we know is that the cabin crew has all the powers to deal with the passenger and the pilot-in-command has all the powers to disembark him/her, if necessary. But little do we know that a criminal case can also be filed at the jurisdiction of the incident against the passenger and may lead to a ban to fly for a maximum period of 10 days.
What are the rights of the passengers who are travelling on the flight? Let us have a look at it.
Rights of Passengers
For international flights, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) is the statutory governing body that frames rules and regulations. All international carriers are liable to follow it. Apart from this internationally accepted regulatory procedure, each country has its own set of legal rights and regulations that the passengers are entitled to. Let us look into the Rights of Air Passengers as approved by the Government of India.
If a passenger faces a delay of more than 24 hours, the airline must provide hotel accommodation free of charge with transfers. Complimentary meals and refreshments need to be provided to the passengers if they have checked in on time.
Cancellation of Flights & Refunds
Many passengers would have faced this scenario, especially during this pandemic season when all the International borders were closed and the flight operations were stopped. Eventually, the operators were forced to refund the booking charges. While only a few received full refunds, many received the refund in percentages. Let us look at how the refunds are decided.
Here are the details of compensation that can be claimed in case of cancellation of flights:
If the Passenger was informed 2 weeks before the scheduled departure time: An Alternate Flight will be suggested / Refund of fare
If the Passenger was informed in less than 2 weeks and up to 24 hours before the scheduled departure time: An alternative flight with the same scheduled departure time might be suggested.
Passenger not informed and reports on time for original cancelled flight: Refund + meals/refreshments (subject to wait time)
Inadequate contact information provided by the passenger during the time of booking: No Financial Compensation. In such cases, airlines will either refund the ticket prices or make reasonable endeavours to make alternate travel arrangements as per the choice of passengers.
- The ticket refund shall be made immediately if the passenger opts for a cash transaction. But, if it’s a credit card transaction, then it might take 7 working days.
- In case the passenger is being offered tickets for future travel, passengers must be given awareness about the refund of money and an option should be suggested.
- All Passenger ‘Service Fares’ collected by the airline must be reimbursed to the passengers on non-utilization or cancellation of tickets
- All charges such as congestion charge, fuel surcharge, etc. must be reimbursed along with the refund of the ticket fare unless these are clubbed with the basic fare.
- In case of lost ticket coupons, the airlines shall take prompt action to refund the ticket amount after verification from their records.
Rights of Passengers with Disabilities
- To facilitate the mobility of persons with disability or reduced mobility, airlines shall obtain necessary information about the specific requirements of such persons at the time of ticketing/online booking process or through the call centers. Once the ticket is confirmed no further inquiries shall be made.
- The passenger is required to notify his required assistance at least 48 hours before the scheduled time of departure to enable the airline to make necessary arrangements for smooth transit. However, in cases of emergency travel, airlines shall make all reasonable efforts to provide the best possible assistance.
- Assistance can be claimed at the time of arrival, which can be utilized during the entire period of travel and until the passenger disembarks the airport.
- Priority in off-loading, including the passenger’s escorts, if any.
- No airline can refuse to carry along medical aids/devices, escorts, or guide dogs.
- All reasonable efforts shall be made by the airlines to ensure the escort is seated next to the passenger.
- Arrangements for quick clearance and delivery of baggage shall be made.
Rights of Senior Citizens, Expectant Mothers
- Senior citizens, expectant mothers, and disabled passengers can place requests for automated buggies in the terminal building that can be used for accessing the boarding gate, free of cost.
In case of unfortunate events
- In case of death or injury to a passenger who is onboard during an international journey, the airlines are liable to pay damage charges up to 113,100 SDR per passenger (which is equal to approximately $158,160 as on January 6, 2022)
- In case of death or injury to a passenger who is onboard during a domestic trip, the airlines are liable to pay damage charges up to ₹20,00,000 per passenger
- In case of death inside the aircraft due to natural causes, then the airline is not liable for compensation
Boarding Denial due to Overbooking
Overbooking is the rarest of rare cases in flight bookings. This scenario happens when booked passengers’ turn-out is higher than the number of seats available in the flight. In that case, the airline must first request the volunteers who can give up the seats, but again that comes with a cost.
Scenario 1: The airline arranges for an alternate flight scheduled to depart within one hour of the originally scheduled departure time
You cannot hold the airlines liable for any sort of compensation.
Scenario 2: The airline fails to arrange for an alternate flight scheduled to depart within one hour of the originally scheduled departure time
You can claim your rights to compensation in the following provisions:
- Compensation equal to 200% of booked one-way ticket + airline fuel charge, capped at INR 10,000. This is applicable if the airline arranges an alternative flight within 24 hours of the departure time of the originally booked flight
- Compensation equal to 400% of booked one-way ticket + airline fuel charge, capped at INR 20,000. This is applicable if the airline is not able to find an alternative flight within 24 hours of the departure time of the originally booked flight.
- A full refund of ticket fare + compensation of 400% of booked one-way basic fare + airline fuel charge, capped at INR 20,000 if the passenger does not opt for an alternative flight.
Unscheduled Flight Diversion
If an unexpected diversion occurs during the journey, the crew members have to inform the passengers appropriately. Again the passengers have the following rights to claim:
- If the waiting time is more than 2 hours, the airline should make immediate arrangements to disembark at the nearest airport. The passengers are eligible for facilitation/ refreshments in the break time
- If the waiting time is less than 2 hours, then the passengers should be provided with refreshments/water/tea/coffee.
Baggage Loss/ Delay
In case of lost baggage, you should check the liability of airlines in case of loss, damage, or delayed baggage.
- In case of loss, damage, or delayed baggage, you are required to contact the airline office and collect the Property Irregularity Report (known as PIR) before leaving the airport. You will also need to put in a written claim to the airline.
- In case of damaged baggage, the airline is liable to pay you the repair charges of your baggage or provide replacement baggage.
- The airline is liable to pay you compensation in case of loss, damage, or delayed baggage as per the provisions of The Carriage by Air Act, 1972 as amended from time to time.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation has a dedicated grievance redressal portal for air passengers. They can login and register their complaints on the website if they feel that their rights have been denied.