Need a regulator for airline passengers

Need a regulator for airline passengers

Most of the existing guidelines and rules are pro-airlines and the passengers are at the receiving end.

The government should set up a regulatory authority to take up grievances of air passengers, along the line of the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) that exists for the communications sector, Congress MP in the Lok Sabha from Kozhikode, MK Raghavan, suggested in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi earlier this month. “Today, there is no regulatory or any other type of authority, like the TRAI, to vet grievances of the air travellers, etc. Most of the existing guidelines and rules are pro-airlines and the passengers are at the receiving end. Therefore, public dissatisfaction among the air travellers is on the increase,” Raghvan said in his letter.

He said there is a need to redefine the status of low-cost airlines. “Most of the private players, terming themselves as low-cost airlines, are having charges at par with Air India, etc, but do not provide any additional facility as available to Air India passengers… In fact, when they are termed as low-cost airlines, they should be low-cost in real sense,” he said.

It is high time that the government considered creating a regulatory body to address the grievances of the air travellers so that a responsible authority can impose penalties/initiate actions on airline operators for violation of rules and services leading to anti-consumer behaviour of the operators, he said in his letter dated January 14. Poor response from the airlines, promised services not being provided, delay in getting refunds, exorbitant fare hikes are some of the common issues highlighted by the passengers, Raghavan said.

At present, aviation safety regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), also works to reduce grievances of air passengers and regulates cancellation charges levied by various airlines. In July last year, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation revised norms that cap ticket cancellation charges and bar airlines from levying additional amount for refund process. The aviation regulator had said airlines cannot levy cancellation charges of more than the basic fare plus fuel surcharge.

Airlines were also mandated to refund all statutory taxes and User Development Fee (UDF)/Airport Development Fee (ADF)/Passenger Service Fee (PSF) to the passengers in case of “cancellation/ non-utilisation of tickets or no show. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation also barred airlines from imposing refund processing fee, which is Rs 200 per ticket for most airlines on domestic sector.

According to the government data, during January-December 2016, domestic airlines carried 9.98 crore domestic passengers as against 8.10 crore during the corresponding period of previous year thereby registering a growth of 23.18 per cent. Private airlines accounted for 85.4 per cent of the total domestic passengers, while 14.6 per cent flew Air India domestically.


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