New Delhi: Waiver of flight ticket cancellation fees and penalties for deficient air services that the civil aviation ministry proposed in May have been put on hold, as a weak rupee, costly crude oil and a new fuel import duty squeeze margins of airlines. The move comes as a big relief for airlines unable to significantly raise fares in a price-sensitive market.
The draft passenger charter had proposed full refunds for cancellation or modification of tickets within 24 hours of booking, as well as for flight delayed beyond four hours, hotel accommodation if delay is more than 24 hours and compensation of ₹ 5,000-20,000 for missing connecting flights due to flight delays. It had also proposed that the limit of liability of airline to pay in case of injury on-board or loss of luggage has to be same for domestic and international flights.
Answering a question on the status of the draft charter at a press conference about paperless airports, civil aviation secretary R.N. Choubey said the government will consider the factors affecting the airline industry’s health while finalising the charter.
The rupee on Thursday hit an all-time low of 73.81, while Brent crude oil price was at $86.14. On 26 September, the government announced an import duty of 5% on aviation turbine fuel, as part of a series of steps to keep imports in check. All three are bad news for the airline industry.
The charter, which proposed relief to consumers on cancellation charges and steep penalties to airlines for poor service, was to take effect by July.
Choubey said the intention of the charter was to make it known to consumers their rights and obligations. He said mere collation of passenger rights that are at different places into one document will not necessarily result in increased cost for airlines. “However, we will take into account the condition that airlines are presently in due to increased fuel cost etc., and take appropriate view on this," Choubey said.
The ministry on Thursday announced a plan to make airports paperless by using face recognition technology for identification. The ‘digi yatra’ scheme will first be introduced in Bengaluru and Hyderabad airports and will eventually be extended to other airports. The idea is to reduce the time spent at check-in counters and make travel smoother. It will also help lower costs for airlines and airports. Civil aviation minister Suresh Prabhu said using face recognition for identification is voluntary for passengers.