Due to bad weather, foggy conditions and low visibility in north India, many flights were delayed, diverted or cancelled in the last week of December, causing inconvenience to scores of passengers.
Fortunately, the ministry of civil aviation has a charter to help passengers deal with such situations. The charter lists certain rights that fliers have, and rules and guidelines that all airlines have to abide by.
If a flight is delayed by over six hours, the airline needs to communicate the rescheduled time more than 24 hours before the original departure time. The airline also needs to offer customers either a full refund or an alternative flight.
In case of a delay of over 24 hours, the passenger should be offered free hotel accommodation. Free stay should also be offered if flights departing between 8pm and 3am are delayed for over six hours.
Remember that the government takes what is known as “block time" in aviation parlance into consideration to decide on the compensation. Simply put, block time is the time between the departure of a flight from the gate and arrival at the destination gate.
Airlines also need to offer meals and refreshments to passenger in case of delays beyond a certain period. For example, the passenger should get refreshments if a flight that has a block time of two-and-a-half hours is delayed by two hours or more. But for flights that have a block time between two-and-a-half hours and five hours, the delay has to be three hours for the passenger to be eligible for refreshments. If a flight doesn’t fall into these two categories, the delay has to be of over four hours for the airline to offer refreshments.
Airlines need to inform passengers about flight cancellation 24 hours before the scheduled departure time. In this case, the customers should be offered either a full refund of the ticket amount or an alternative flight.
If the flier is not informed 24 hours before departure or she misses a connecting flight due to cancellation, the airline has to offer compensation. The compensation amount ranges between ₹5,000 and ₹10,000, depending on the block time. Also, if the passenger is already at the airport and there’s a delay, the flier should get refreshments while the staff arranges an alternative flight.
Diversion: In case a flight is diverted, the airline should disembark the passengers at the nearest airport and provide refreshments.
What’s the catch?
The charter states that the airline will have no obligation to pay "compensation" if delay or cancellation happens due to circumstances beyond the control of the airline. These include political instability, natural disaster, riots, floods, government regulations, meteorological conditions, security risks and so on.
While the passenger can ask for a refund or alternative flight during protests similar to that in Delhi, she may not be liable to get compensation.
Where to complain
If the airline is not sticking to the norms provided in the passenger charter, the passenger needs to first complain at the airline’s help desk or email them. If she is not satisfied with the resolution provided by the airline, she can file a grievance with the ministry of civil aviation through its AirSewa portal or app.