Air travellers can now cancel tickets without having to pay any amount within a day of the booking and also claim enhanced compensation for loss of baggage from airlines as the Ministry of Civil Aviation on Wednesday finalised the new passenger charter, prescribing a series of consumer-friendly measures.
However, as per the new charter, zero cancellation charge won’t apply if the tickets are booked less than seven days before the scheduled departure time of the flight. In case of less than seven days between the date of booking and date of travel, the airline can charge cancellation fee limited to the total of base fare and fuel surcharge. Other components like tax, user development fee, airport development fee and passenger service fee will have to be refunded.
Passengers have often complained that airlines collect charges like user development fee, airport development fee and passenger service fee from them even if they cancel their tickets. Currently, airlines charge a fee between Rs 3,000 and Rs 4,500 even if a ticket is cancelled immediately after the booking.
The passenger charter also prescribes uniform penalties on carriers for poor services such as missing connecting flights and denial of boarding due to overbooking. Passengers can now also make legitimate corrections in their name within 24 hours of booking without paying any charges. Currently, any change or correction in name is considered as cancellation and charges apply. A traveller has to then book a new ticket. The compensation for loss or damage to baggage has been fixed at Rs 350 per kg, nearly 75 per cent more than what airlines usually pay now. The upper limit for compensation has been enhanced to Rs 20,000, up from Rs 3,000 currently.
Airline executives believe the penalties are steep and will be an unnecessary burden. “We already follow DGCA guidelines on passenger service benchmark. There was no need for this (passenger charter). Cancellations’ revenue help airlines keep tickets low for other flyers,” an official from a low-cost carrier said.
The ministry has also introduced compensation for passengers for missing connecting flights if onward journey is on same PNR. Passengers would be paid between Rs 5,000 and Rs 10,000 depending on the duration of the flight. Currently, there’s no compensation of any kind in monetary terms for missing connecting flights. Compensation for flight cancellation by airlines in the last 24 hours of the scheduled take-off has been abolished. Under the new rule, the carriers can offer refund to the passengers or arrange an alternate flight. Under the current system, the flyers are given compensation of up to Rs 10,000 in addition to the ticket refund.
Civil Aviation Minister Suresh Prabhu said the charter will bring uniformity in passenger services. “The Directorate General of Civil Aviation’s civil aviation requirements list out the rights of the air passengers. A minimum benchmark has been set now. We want passengers to have a world-class flying experience. This would be beneficial for the airlines too in the long-run,” he said. —FE