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No payout by airlines for delays
Published on 8 Aug. 2010 12:07 AM IST
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Contrary to the general perception, air passengers in India will not get any financial compensation for flight delays, no matter how long they are forced to wait. But from August 15, flyers will be compensated monetarily if any airline denies them boarding despite them having reported at the check-in counter on time with a confirmed air ticket. Such incidents are known to take place during peak season when airlines overbook.
Other than that, financial compensation will be payable only in case of flight cancellation, provided it is not for reasons beyond the control of an airline and if the carrier has not informed the flyer three hours in advance. In short, the Director General of Civil Aviation’s (DGCA) independence day package has very few goodies for the janta.
On Friday, the DGCA issued the Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR), section 3-air transport, listing the facilities to be provided to passengers by airlines in case of denial of boarding, delays and cancellation of flights. The new norms will come into effect from August 15, reports Times News Network. The DGCA had put up a draft proposal in July and it was open to objections and suggestions. The final document almost sticks to the draft proposal in content, except for a few changes, like, for instance, the rules which apply to Indian carriers will also be applicable to foreign carriers operating to/from India.
If anything, the CAR ensures that airlines save some money in case of flight delays “due to events of force majeure, or extraordinary circumstances”. These include floods and other weather conditions, airline strikes and labour disputes, air traffic control issues, political instability, natural disasters, civil war, insurrection or riots, and explosions. So, if your flight is delayed due to any of the above reasons, the airline is not obliged to serve you meal or refreshments. Even if the flight is delayed by more than 24 hours due to such extraordinary reasons, the airline need not provide you hotel accommodation.
Incidentally, most airlines do serve meals and offer hotel accommodation (though during the recent volcanic fog flight disruptions, it was not possible to do so) even when the delay is not due to reasons under their control. A few weeks ago, for instance, Air India served breakfast to passengers on its Frankfurt-Ahmedabad flight which had to be diverted to Mumbai as a Jet Airways ATR had blocked the runway for hours together after landing with a nose-gear problem.
So, what does the CAR hold for the passenger? The only encouraging news is that air passengers will get compensated for being denied boarding (apart from getting the ticket refund if the passenger does not opt for another flight) if they hold a valid ticket and if they report at the airport on time.
The quantum of compensation, though, is meagre — Rs 4,000 or the value of the ticket, whichever is lesser, for flights more than two hours. It means if you are offloaded from a Mumbai-New York flight, the airline will pay you a $86 compensation. So, it would be prudent to arrive at the airport well ahead of time, especially if you have booked your ticket months in advance and got a cheap fare. Other than the compensation, the offloaded passenger will get the option of taking a ticket refund at the price it was purchased or “a flight to the first point of departure” or an alternate mode of transport (which sure would not work in the case of a flight to New York).
But there are things that passengers should look out for. If a passenger — after buying a confirmed ticket — does not report at the check-in counter within the time stipulated by the airline, the carrier can levy a no-show penalty. And in case of a flight cancellation, financial compensation needs to be paid only if the airline fails to inform the passenger about it at least three hours in advance.

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