Rights of Air Passenger in India

India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation released a charter that reiterated the rights of passengers flying within the country. This list of rights covers most eventualities: from flight delays to cancellations to loss of baggage. To be sure, most of these rules were in place already. However, after consulting airlines and passenger bodies, the government modified some of these. And so, here is your new set of rules as an air passenger in India

What should you do if your flight is delayed?

  • If you’ve checked in on time, your flight has a block time of 2.5 hours and is delayed by 2 hours or more, you’re entitled to a free meal and refreshments during your wait. The same applies if your flight’s block time is 2.5-5 hours and is delayed by 3 hours or more.
  • If your flight is pushed by 4 hours or more, regardless of block time, you get those refreshments.
  • If your domestic flight is expecting a delay of more than 6 hours, the rescheduled time should be communicated to you more than 24 hours before your original scheduled departure time. The airline is also bound to offer you an alternative flight within 6 hours or a full refund on your ticket.
  • There are two situations in which you are entitled to free hotel stay. One, if your flight delay is communicated to you more than 24 hours before your original scheduled departure and if the delay is more than 24 hours or more than 6 hours for flights scheduled between 8pm and 3am.

What should you do if your flight is cancelled?

  1. If you’re informed of the cancellation less than a fortnight but up to 24 hours before the scheduled departure, you are entitled to an alternate flight or a refund on the ticket. If you’re not informed within this time frame or have missed your connecting flight booked on the same ticket number, the airline should either provide an alternate flight that’s acceptable to you or compensation, in addition to a full refund.
  2. For flights with a block time of up to an hour, this means compensation of Rs5,000 or booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge, whichever is less. It’s the same choice if your flight’s block time is between 1 and 2 hours, with a compensation amount of Rs7,500, and for flights with more than 2 hours’ block time, it’s Rs10,000.
  3. If the airline offers a flight to or from an airport or terminal other than the one for which you had booked, it will pay for transferring you to the original one. But if you’ve been informed of the change at least 6 hours in advance, then you will make your own arrangements.
  4. Also, if you’ve already reported for the original flight and are waiting for the alternate one, the airline is bound to provide complimentary meals and refreshments, in relation to waiting time.
  5. Note that if you did not provide adequate contact information at the time of booking, no monetary compensation is coming your way.

What should you do if you are denied boarding because the flight was overbooked?

  • If the airline arranges an alternate flight scheduled to depart within one hour of the flight you booked for, you cannot hold the airline responsible for compensation for the missed original flight that you were denied boarding on.
  • If the airline does not arrange for said alternate flight, you must be given compensation equal to 200% of booked one-way far plus airline fuel charge, subject to a maximum of Rs10,000 if the airline arranges another flight scheduled to depart within 24 hours of the booked scheduled departure.
  • If the airline arranges a flight scheduled to leave more than 24 hours after the original departure time, the compensation will be 400% of booked one-way far plus airline fuel charge, subject to a maximum of Rs20,000.
  • And if you do not opt for an alternate flight, you are entitled to this 400% subject to a maximum of INR20,000 plus a full refund on your ticket.

How will the airline repay if it owes you a refund?

If the payment was made by cash, then you’re golden. If it was by credit card, it will take up to 7 days, and if the payment was made through a travel agent, then it depends on the agent.

What are rules for refunds on cancelled tickets?

  • First, make sure to check the cancellation charges, ticket amount break-up and refund policy when you’re booking a ticket.  If you cancel your ticket, your airline has to refund all the money that came under statutory taxes, user and airport development fees and the passenger service fee. This applies to all types of fares, including promos, special fares and where the basic fare in non-refundable. You can choose to hold the refund amount in a credit shell by the airline, but it is not the default practice of the airline.
  • Know that you are not liable to pay any additional refund-processing charges, and if the carrier is a foreign one operating to/from India, the refund will be processed as per the rules of its country of origin.
  • At least one integrated display should be provided that includes the schedules, fares, rules and seat availability of all participating carriers. Also, if you point out a legitimate correction of your name within 24 hours of booking, the airline cannot levy any additional charge to make the change.
  • You can cancel or amend your ticket without any additional charge within 24 hours of booking it. This is possible up to 7 days before the specified flight departure’s first leg.

What happens when an airline loses, delays or damages your baggage?

  • You can claim damages only if the loss, delay or damage took place while onboard the aircraft or if thechecked baggage was in the airline’s charge.
  • In the case of unchecked baggage, the airline is responsible if the damage took place due to its fault or that of its agent.
  • For loss, delay or damage to baggage on an international flight, the airline is required to pay SDR1,131 per passenger, and SDR19 per kg for cargo. On a domestic flight, the carrier liability is Rs19,000 per passenger for baggage and Rs350 per kg for cargo.

What if you have a disability?

  • You need to provide all the necessary information on your specific requirements at the time of booking, and you must notify the airline about your needs at least 48 hours before scheduled departure.
  • No airline can refuse to carry you, along with your assistive aids and devices, escorts and guide dogs, on these grounds, and if it does, it needs to provide you with this reason in writing.
  • If you’re assisted by an escort, the airline will make all reasonable efforts to make sure you are seated together. Cabin crew are required to brief you before take-off on emergency procedures, cabin layout and specialized equipment on board that you could need. You’ll be provided convenient seats and relevant available aid devices at no extra cost, and your baggage clearance will be a priority.
  • You and your escort hold the highest priority for transportation, in case any offloading is required. If you are travelling without an escort, you don’t need to produce medical certificates or fill up any additional forms.

What if you’re injured or die on a flight?

In case of bodily injury or death on board, the airline is liable to pay damages up to SDR1,13,100 per passenger during international travel. But if the death on-board the aircraft was due to natural causes, the airline is not liable to pay compensation. For domestic flights, the airline is liable to pay up to Rs20 lakh per passenger in case of death not due to natural causes.

What are your rights to information?

A clearly legible notice has to be displayed at check-in, with the following text: “If you are denied boarding, or your flight is cancelled or delayed, ask at the check-in counter or boarding gate for the text stating your rights, particularly with regard to compensation or assistance. In these two situations, the carrier must provide you with a written notice setting out the rules for compensation and assistance. The contact details of the person to whom you can escalate the matter must also be given in writing. If the passenger is visually impaired, this information needs to be given to them in via alternative means. If you want data on cases related to denied boarding, cancellations and delates, check the DGCA website – airlines are required to submit this data monthly.

What if your complaint was not redressed?

If your complaint or demand for legitimate compensation has not been resolved to your satisfaction, you can file the complaint on the AirSewa app, or then, of course, take it to court.

When are you not eligible for compensation?

If the delay or cancellation has been caused by an extraordinary circumstance well outside the airline’s control, such as political instability, natural disasters, riots, explosions, civil war, insurrection, government regulations affecting the aircraft, strikes or labour disputes causing cessation or slowdown in the working of an airline. The airline is also not liable to pay if the delay or cancellation is clearly due to air traffic control, meteorological conditions or security risks.

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