The civil aviation ministry has proposed an increase in compensation for loss of life and baggage in air accidents, strict caps on cancellation fees and monetary benefits to passengers for missed flight connections.
These have been recommended by the ministry in its proposed passenger charter. A draft proposal is expected for public consultation in the next few days.
The ministry has already introduced a grievance redressal app and abolished the practice of stamping passenger bags during airport security checks. The next step is the charter, which aims to safeguard consumer rights and address criticism about the government not doing enough for passengers.
“We have had two rounds of preliminary discussion with airlines, airports and a few other industry participants. This has helped us develop a good first draft of the passenger charter that we can now place in the public domain for consultation,” minister of state for civil aviation Jayant Sinha tweeted on Wednesday.
At present, benefits and facilities to be given to passengers in case of delays, cancellation and denied boarding are specified in regulations. Compensation for damage or loss of baggage and for injuries or deaths in air accidents is given in line with global norms.
The ministry has recommended an increase in the liability for both domestic and international travel, with compensation of Rs 1,000-3,000 a kg for loss, delay and damage. Airlines are presently liable to pay upto Rs 20,000 and Rs 100,000 (rupee equivalent of SDR) for loss or damage to bags in domestic and international flights, respectively. Further, the ministry has proposed that airlines compensate for a passenger missing a connecting flight due to the delay.
SDR refers to special drawing rights — a monetary unit created by the IMF, which is used to calculate compensation.
An airline is liable to pay upto Rs 10 million (rupee equivalent of SDR) for a passenger death in international travel and Rs 200,000 in domestic travel. The ministry has recommended a similar liability for both international and domestic travel. If accepted, this will increase the insurance premium of carriers.
The ministry has also recommended amending the rules on delay and cancellation. It has suggested airlines offer compensation of Rs 3,000-20,000 for missed flight connections — a move resisted by airlines. In cases of denied boarding, the ministry has suggested on-the-spot auctions and minimum compensation of Rs 5,000.
To protect customers from stiff cancellation charges, the government wants airlines to not levy a fee for a change in name if a spelling error is pointed to by the passenger within 24 hours. Also, airlines to print cancellation charges on the ticket. In no circumstance will an airline levy a cancellation charge which equals the basic plus fuel surcharge. Government officials say consultation with airlines continue on this, with the latter opposing a steep hike in these. “The consultations are still on. A more refined version will be put out for public consultation,” said a senior official at the Directorate General of Civil Aviation.
According to the official, airlines have argued they should not be liable for a passenger missing a connecting flight if the two journeys are on a different PNR. "They said the current level of penalties for airlines are already high and there is no reason to increase that."
When asked, AirAsia India said it had given its views to the ministry. Vistara declined comment and other airlines did not respond to an e-mail query.