Home / News / India /  How passengers benefit from the new air travel charter

The government on Wednesday announced a passenger charter that lists the rights of travellers and the responsibilities of airlines. This charter, the government said, would benefit both parties and improve the air travel experience. Mint takes a look at what it can achieve.

Why was there a need to bring in a charter?

The volume of air travel has been rising sharply over the last few years. This has put a strain on infrastructure and the customer-handling capabilities of operators. The number of domestic flyers, for example, doubled from 60 million in FY14 to over 120 million in FY18, shows data. In a large civil aviation market, where airlines operate with near full-capacity utilization, responsiveness to customer grievances becomes an important public policy priority for the government. Policymakers want high performance standards in the airline industry and do not want carriers to cut corners on customer convenience.

Have there been many passenger complaints?

In 2017, around 8,300 passengers sought resolution of complaints on issues related to fares, refunds, flights, baggage and catering. This is a shade less than the 9,700 complaints airlines received in 2016. The charter seeks to address the major grievances of flyers. To help resolve their complaints, the government introduced an online customer grievance portal in 2016. The charter also seeks to reset the service terms in favour of customers. The government had introduced a no-fly list system in 2017 to discourage unruly behaviour by irate passengers. The system imposed a temporary ban on such passengers from flying.

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When does the charter come into force?

The charter is the result of about nine months of consultation with the airline industry and is final. It will come into force from the date of its notification, which is expected to be in a few days.

What are the key benefits for travellers?

The charter says airlines cannot charge an extra fee for ticket cancellation or amendment within 24 hours of booking if the travel date is at least a week away. It also mandates carriers to compensate flyers and refund the full ticket cost if they cannot provide another flight acceptable to the passenger when the flight is cancelled with less than a day’s notice. The compensation could go up to 10,000 if travel time is over two hours. Passengers must be offered free hotel stay if night flights are delayed by more than six hours. 

Will these measures in the charter add to the costs of airlines?

Airline executives say that the practice of levying additional charge for cancellation of flight booking enables carriers to keep fares low. Free cancellation of tickets may thus lower their revenue. However, with a marginal increase in fare across the board, the additional cost could be passed on evenly to all passengers. Government officials insist that the measures in the charter are not an intrusion into the pricing policy of airlines, but a public policy measure.


ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Gireesh Chandra Prasad

Gireesh has over 22 years of experience in business journalism covering diverse aspects of the economy, including finance, taxation, energy, aviation, corporate and bankruptcy laws, accounting and auditing.
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