In a series of reforms that the Government of India wants to bring in, they want to change the rules to make more pro-consumer changes to the policy. Currently, you get the following benefits from airlines if your flight’s cancelled:
- Cancellation between 2 weeks to 24 hours, the airline needs to place you on another flight within 2 hours of the originally scheduled time of departure.
- If your flight is cancelled on the day of travel and the airline does not put you on an alternate flight, you get compensated between INR 5000 to 10000 or one-way cost of your ticket. This is subject to force majeure and due to other factors not in the control of the airline.
You also get refreshments for flight delays and so on.
Now, while this has been under discussion for a long time, there are new proposed measures to be implemented for passengers as per the new consultation paper uploaded by the DGCA. Under discussion are:
- No cancellation fee on air tickets cancelled within 24 hours of booking, provided the cancellation is made more than four days before the flight departure date.
- When the flight is delayed by more than 4 hours, you get an option for a full refund
- When the delay is more than 24 hours, you get food and hotel stays at the airline’s expense.
- Minimum compensation for lost baggage to be Rs 3000 per kg. For delayed and damaged luggage, minimum Rs 1000 per kg.
- Under no circumstances can the airline or its agents, including online booking agents charge cancellation charge more than the ticket amount. The taxes and levies have to be refunded.
- No charges for correction of up to three characters in the name of the passenger within 24 hours of booking.
- Passengers to be compensated by up to Rs 20,000 (depending on the delay) for flight delays which lead to onward flights being missed, booked on the same PNR and not delayed for reasons out of control of the airline.
- All airports to provide at least 30 minutes of free wi-fi service.
Now, on the face of it, it all looks good. Some of it indeed is. Jet Airways, and then Air Vistara, have already been offering 24 hours free cancellation on tickets. Recently, various portals such as Yatra have also started to sell a cheap priced option to cancel ticket within 24 hours.
All of these look reasonable proposals to me. People get fooled by the vast cancellation charges they see on airline websites, which are boilerplate numbers and sometimes shows more than the airfare, while this is not a valid move. Airline IT needs to work towards updating this.
In the USA, it is mandated by regulation to provide a 24 hour free look-in period for tickets booked with origin in the USA, and it has worked very well for customers, domestic as well as international. This is a no-brainer to implement and does not cost a bit at all for the airline. At the same time, it has enough safeguards to ensure that the airline does not have to sell the last minute ticket cheaper. However, Jet Airways free look-in works till 24 hours out. I hope that doesn’t change when this becomes law if it does. Similarly for the name correction.
However, what beats me is the responsibility of everything lies at the airline. Even if the delay is because of the airport infrastructure and so on. For instance, last week I flew from Mumbai to Delhi and sat on the tarmac for one hour after doors closed on the plane because the ATC would not permit to take off. As much as this move discomforts me, I won’t lay the blame of this on the airline.
It worries me however as well, since the airlines may use these events to raise airfares and all of this circles back into raising fares for the customers.
What do you think of the new proposals by the DGCA? Do you think they will see the light of the day?