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Pay Rs 100/kg for extra baggage

| SRIDHAR KUMARASWAMI
Published : Jun 12, 2016, 4:00 am IST
Updated : Jun 12, 2016, 4:00 am IST

The civil aviation ministry on Saturday came out with a slew of proposed passenger-friendly measures apart from a decision that will result in air travellers paying just Rs 100 per kg for extra check-

The civil aviation ministry on Saturday came out with a slew of proposed passenger-friendly measures apart from a decision that will result in air travellers paying just Rs 100 per kg for extra check-in baggage between 15 to 20 kg effective from June 15 instead of the current Rs 300 per kg. Check-in baggage, at least upto 15 kg, is already free in all scheduled airlines.

The proposed measures that will need amendments in the civil aviation regulations — a draft of which will be put up for consultations with stakeholders before a final decision — include hike in compensation for passengers for flight cancellations by a steep two-and-a-half times, putting the onus on airlines for refunds to passengers in case the air tickets are booked through travel agents or web portals who are appointed representatives by airlines, a timeline for completion of the refund process which will be 15 working days for domestic travel and 30 working days for international travel, refund by airlines of all statutory taxes to passengers that is due to the government in case of cancellation or non-utilisation of the tickets and also refund of user development fees charged by the airports, capping of flight cancellation charges which are not to exceed the basic fare, no additional charges by airlines to process a refund, a new formula for compensation that is linked to the basic airfare charged by airlines in case of overbooking by airlines and abolition of penalties on passengers who don’t turn up for the flight and who will be entitled now to refunds.

The government has also proposed certain mandatory facilities for persons with disabilities, including making security personnel, customs and immigration officials undergo training modules for sensitisation, a procedure by airlines to offer stretchers in advance that are displayed on the airline website, and also provision of towable ramp by the airport operator at airports where ambulifts or aerobridge facilities are not available.

The announcements were made by top aviation ministry and DGCA officials in the presence of civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju and minister of state for civil aviation Mahesh Sharma. Top DGCA officials said that discussions with airlines had already begun on the matter earlier and that no resistance was expected from airlines. Mr Raju said that the compensation would go up, as per the proposal, in most cases while it could also come down in a few.

The government officials said while, “At present, most of the scheduled domestic airlines provide free checked-in baggage allowance upto 15 kg after which charges are Rs 300 per kg, from June 15 onwards airlines have been asked to levy only Rs 100 per kg for an extra five kg beyond the free checked-in baggage of 15 kg and (upto 20 kg). For every further kg beyond 20 kg, airlines will be free to levy the charge that they want to.

The government has proposed that “in case of purchase of tickets through travel agents or web portals, onus of refund shall lie with the airline as agents are appointed representatives of airlines. The refund process shall be completed within 15 working days in case of domestic travel and 30 working days in case of international travel.”

It has also been proposed that “airlines shall refund all statutory taxes and user development fees/airport development fee to the passengers.”

The Government has further proposed, “Under no circumstances the cancellation charge shall be more than the basic fare. Airlines shall not levy any additional charge to process the refund.”

The Government has also proposed a new formula linked to the basic air-fare for compensation in case of overbooking by airlines which results in passengers being denied boarding and also in case of flight cancellations instead of the current absolute fixed amounts. For instance, currently, the compensation slabs are Rs 2,000, 3,000 and 4,000 depending on the flight duration for passengers denied boarding on account of overbooking. The Government has proposed that for this, the amount of compensation will be “200 percent of booked one-way basic fare along with airline fuel charge subject to a maximum of Rs 10,000 in case an airline arranges an alternate flight that is scheduled to depart within 24 hours of the booked schedule departure.” If the alternate flight is arranged beyond the 24 hours, the compensation for the passenger will be 400 percent of the booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge subject to a maximum of Rs 20,000. However, at the same time, the Government has proposed that there will be “no compensation in case an airline arranges an alternate flight that is scheduled to depart within one hour of the original scheduled departure time.”

For flight cancellations, the current compensation slabs are similarly Rs 2,000, 3,000 and 4,000 depending on the flight duration. However it is now proposed that the compensation will be hiked two and a half times to Rs 5,000, 7,500 or 10,000 respectively depending on the flight duration or else the basic fare and fuel surcharge if it is lesser. Airlines don’t have to pay compensation if they cancel 24 hours or more ahead of a flight departure provided an alternate flight is scheduled to depart within two hours of their booked scheduled time of departure. Box Decision

Air-travellers will need to pay just Rs 100 per kg for extra check-in baggage between 15 to 20 kg effective from June 15 instead of the current Rs 300 per kg charged by most airlines. Check-in baggage at least upto 15 kg is already free in all airlines.

Current Rules and Proposals 1. Current rules—-Flight compensation slabs of Rs 2,000, 3,000 and 4,000 depending on flight duration in case of flight cancellations.

Proposed—-Compensation hiked by two and a half times to Rs 5,000, 7,500 and 10,000 or else one-way basic fare along with airline fuel surcharge whichever is less. But no compensation if airlines inform at least 24 hours ahead of flight and also arrange alternate flight that will leave within two hours of original flight.

2. Current Rules—-In case ticket is booked through travel agents, arrangement for refund is left to the travel agent.

Proposed—-putting the onus on airlines for refunds to passengers in case the air-tickets are booked through travel agents or web portals. Refund within 15 working days in case of domestic travel and 30 working days in case of international travel.

3. Current Rules—Airlines have to return only the passenger service fee levied to meet the expenditure on airport security to passengers in case of cancellation of ticket by passenger.

Proposed—-In addition to PSF, refund by airlines of all statutory taxes to passengers that is due to the Government in case of cancellation or non-utilisation of the tickets and also refund of user development fees charged by airport operators in case of cancellation of ticket by passenger. Return of taxes and fee applicable for all types of airline fares.

4. Current rules—No bar on cancellation charge limit. Airlines can levy additional charge to process refunds.

Proposed—-Capping of flight cancellation charges which are not to exceed the basic fare. No additional charges by airlines to process a refund.

5. Current rules—-Compensation slabs of Rs 2,000, 3,000 and 4,000 depending on flight duration in case of passengers denied boarding due to overbooking.

Proposed—-A new formula for compensation that is linked to the basic air-fare charged by airlines. But no compensation in some cases where airlines get the passenger to travel on a flight within one hour of the departure of the original flight.

6. Current rules—-Airlines levy penalties on “no show” passengers (those who do not report for travel despite firm bookings and this penalty is deducted from fare paid by passenger during refund.

Proposed—-Airlines will not be allowed to levy penalties on no-show passengers at the time of refunds.

7. Proposed additional facilities for passengers with disabilities and related measures

Making security personnel, customs and immigration officials too undergo training modules for sensitisation, a procedure by airlines to offer stretchers in advance that are displayed on the airline website, and also provision of towable ramp by the airport operator at airports where ambulifts or aerobridge facilities are not available.

Govt’s view Government does not expect resistance from airlines since discussions have already been held with them. Financial compensation will go up in real terms in most cases while it could also come down in some.

Fares unlikely to be capped The issue of capping airfares is under consideration, Union civil aviation secretary R.N. Choubey said on Saturday, even as his minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said it could be counter-productive. Mr Choubey said capping airfares is an issue which continues to be under consideration of the ministry.

“A final view of course is to be taken. The examination of the issue is very much continuing,” he said. However, his minister was of the view that capping airfares could be counter-productive for majority of passengers as airlines might hike the floor prices. “The idea is not to regulate for the sake of regulation. We don’t want to push up the cost of tickets for the majority,” he added.

The remarks by Mr Raju and Mr Choubey came days after the minister ruled out the possibility of capping airfares in the backdrop of passenger complaints of arbitrary tariff hikes, saying competition among the airlines will take care of it.

When asked about the possibility of capping air ticket prices at the event, the minister said that floors and caps did exist before 1994. “So do we want to make it a regulated affair or not If you put a cap, the floor will go up. This is the problem...,” he noted.

Citing an analysis about fare movements done last year, the minister said it was found that only around 1.7 per cent of the tickets were priced higher. The analysis was carried in the wake of concerns expressed by Parliamentarians about steep fluctuations in air ticket prices.

Location: India, Delhi, New Delhi