New rules to make airlines pay for 'booting' passengers

With airlines once again flying high after the downturn caused by the global recession, the authorities have revived steps to protect passengers from the disagreeable practice of denying seats to valid passengers due to overbooking, as well as unwarranted delays and cancellations of flights.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on Monday revived its over three-year-old plan of asking airlines to compensate the victims of such incidents.

The regulatory body has invited public opinion on the draft civil aviation rules (CAR) about facilities to be provided by airlines if a passenger is denied boarding, and in case of cancellations and delays.

The rules will be applicable to both, scheduled as well as non-scheduled airlines, which includes budget carriers and national carrier Air India. The draft orders airline operators to provide financial compensation to passengers for flights having a block time of two hours or more. Apart from financial compensation, the airline will also be asked to provide meals, refreshments or even accommodation in case of delays.

The DGCA has proposed three slabs of compensation in cases of forcible denial of boarding to those who have confirmed tickets and who report to the airport in time, and sudden cancellations without prior information: up to Rs2,000 for flights of an hours duration, up to Rs3,000 for one to two hour-long flights and up to Rs4,000 for longer flights.

The other option for passengers would be to seek alternate transport to be arranged by the airline, or take the next flight to their destination. Airlines shall first ask for volunteers to accommodate overbooked passengers who want to be on that flight.

However, airlines will not be liable to pay fines for delays or cancellations caused by events beyond their control like political instability, natural disaster, civil war, riot, strikes, ATC (air traffic control) issues and unexpected flight safety shortcomings.