NEW DELHI--If you are a regular flyer, there's much reason to cheer. The government has proposed a slew of passenger centric initiatives on Saturday which includes a cap on ticket cancellation charges, increased compensation for denied boarding and steep reduction in excess baggage fee levied by airlines.
Here are some of the proposals:
1. Limiting exorbitant air ticket cancellation fee. The Civil Aviation Ministry said airlines will have to refund all statutory taxes levied in the event of flight cancellations. Aviation regulator DGCA has proposed that "under no circumstances the cancellation charges be more than the basic fare" and carriers cannot levy additional charge to process the refund.
2. Up to five-fold hike to Rs 20,000 in compensation for denied boarding and steep reduction in excess baggage fee.
3. In case of checked-in baggage, the airlines would be charging Rs 100 per kg for baggage weight in excess of 15 kg upto 20 kg. At present, Rs 300 is levied for every kg of baggage beyond the 15-kg limit. Only Air India allows free baggage up to 23 kg.
4. The Ministry has also proposed measures to help passengers with reduced mobility. The regulator has proposed that airlines should develop a procedure for making advance request of stretcher and same should be displayed on the airline's website.
5. For denied boarding and flight cancellations, DGCA proposed revised compensation structures depending on the arrangement of an alternative flight for the traveller. An amount equal to 200 per cent of booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge subject to the maximum limit of Rs 10,000 would be given in case the carrier arranges the alternative flight within 24 hours of the scheduled departure.
The amount would go up to 400 per cent of booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge and the maximum would be Rs 20,000 where the alternative flight is provided after 24 hours.
According to the watchdog, no compensation would be paid if a passenger is informed about the cancellation at least two weeks before the scheduled departure and if the airline has arranged another flight depending on the passenger's convenience.
This would be applicable, subject to conditions, even in instances where the cancellation has been informed less than two weeks and up to 24 hours before the scheduled departure.
In such a case, there would be no compensation if the carrier has arranged alternative flight scheduled to depart within two hours of their booked scheduled departure.
6. In cancellations, the financial compensation would be Rs 5,000 or booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge, whichever is less, for flights having a block time of up to one hour. This quantum would be Rs 7,500 in case of flights having a block time of one to two hours.
7. For flights having a block time of more than two hours, the financial compensation would go up to Rs 10,000. Airlines would be required to refund "all statutory taxes and User Development Fee (UDF)/Airport Development Fee (ADF)/ Passenger Development Fee (PSF) to the passengers in case of cancellation/non-utilisation of tickets/no show".
8. Return of taxes and fee would be applicable for all types of fares including "promos/special fares and where the basic fare is non-refundable.
9. The refund process shall be completed within 15 working days in case of domestic travel and 30 working days in case of international travel. For foreign airlines, the refund would be in accordance with the regulations of their respective countries while the mode of refund would be governed by Indian norms.
10. It has been proposed that the onus of the refund of tickets, which are booked through travel agent or portal, would be on the carriers.
11. Airports would provide "towable ramp to such people in case ambulift or aerobridge facility are not available". "Airport operator shall ensure that assistive devices being used to assist a disabled passenger are as per the standards set by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment," the regulator said.
The changes in the rules mooted by the Civil Aviation ministry that will cover domestic and international flights involving Indian carriers come against the backdrop of complaints by passengers and cancellation and delays of over 4,000 and 63,400 flights respectively last year.
Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said the measures followed complaints from passengers that issues concerning them are not getting resolved within a reasonable time.
The government has given a two-week time to stakeholders to submit their suggestions and comments before finalising and implementing the new norms. The proposed changes in the excess baggage fee norm will, however, be implemented from June 15, Director General of Civil Aviation M Sathiyavathy said.
While all domestic airlines, including state-owned carrier Air India, refused to comment on the Government's proposed "passenger centric amendments," fliers body APAI welcomed the move, saying that the changes brought about after almost a decade will be a "big relief" to the fliers and encourage more people to take to air travel.
Aviation experts, however, criticized the proposed changes and said it could reverse the engine of growth in the aviation market, which grew fastest in the world last fiscal.
"We are extremely happy that the changes that have been mooted will benefit passengers in a big way. It will encourage more people to fly and spur the growth of the domestic aviation market, which has grown fastest in the world," Air Passengers Association of India (APAI) president D Sudhakara Reddy said.
Amber Dubey, partner and India head of aerospace and defence at global consultancy KPMG, however, said that the proposals would have a direct bearing on airline's bottom-line.
"The Indian aviation sector is finally coming out of the woods thanks to the low oil prices, rising economy and growing aircraft fleet. It needs 3-4 years of 18-20 per cent annual growth to consolidate and expand; and to recover the huge debt and losses of the past. Care should be taken by the government not to throttle the aviation sector so much in the name of honouring public sentiments that it takes us back to square one," Dubey said.
The government has spent seven months in public consultations on the draft aviation policy, he said, adding, "one hopes the ministry gives at least 4 weeks to the airlines to respond to such drastic provisions".
(With inputs from PTI)
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