New Delhi, May 22 : Domestic air passengers will soon be able to avail refunds, along with additional compensation for delays, lost baggage and some relief from cancellations charges, as the government on Tuesday put in the public domain a new 'passenger charter' for eliciting comments, suggestions before notifying them.
Accordingly, the new air passenger charter seeks to amend current norms for charges incurred by travellers on cancellation and rescheduling of air travel, among other things.
However, the new compensation structure will apply only if it is found that the flight delay or cancellation was caused by the airline concerned.
The new norms are expected to be notified by mid-July after public comments on the draft charter have been sought by the Ministry of Civil Aviation within a month. The 'passenger charter' was withdrawn soon after its release by the ministry in the early afternoon, with officials saying they will issue the draft rules "after correction."
A revised statement detailing the provisions under the 'passenger charter' was released later in the evening.
As per the proposed passenger entitlement, the charter proposes a 'lock-in period' for 24 hours after booking in which a passenger can "cancel or amend the ticket without any additional charges."
Additionally, the draft document prohibits airlines as well as online or offline agents to levy cancellation charges that total to more than the "basic fare plus fuel surcharge".
In terms of delays, subject to conditions, "when a flight is expected to be delayed for more than 4 hours" airlines will be mandated to offer an option of full refund.
"When delay is more than 24 hours from published scheduled time of departure and involves flight to fly on the next day i.e. beyond 0000 hours, passenger to be offered free-of-charge hotel accommodation (including transfers)," the ministry said.
On account of missing a connecting flight on the same PNR (Passenger Name Record) ticket number due to a delay, the charter proposes to fine the concerned airline Rs 5,000 "for a delay of more than 3 hours".
Subsequently, if the delay is between 4 and 12 hours, the compensation will be Rs 10,000. A delay of more than 12 hours will lead to a liability of Rs 20,000 per passenger.
Besides, passengers would be de-boarded, if the flight is stationed on the tarmac for more than 90 minutes plus with "no possibility of departure in the next 30 minutes".
In case of flight cancellations, if the passenger is informed less than two weeks before and up to 24 hours of departure time, then the concerned airline will be asked to offer an alternate flight or to provide a full refund.
Further, liabilities for baggage lost, delayed or damaged have been mooted at "Rs 3,000 per kg for loss of baggage, Rs 1,000 per kg for delay and Rs 1,000 per kg for damage of baggage".
The draft document also mandates airlines to have seats that are "designated as acceptable for persons with disabilities free of charge, which will remain blocked until close to the time of departure".
According to the Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha, the charter is a part of an overall campaign "#Air Sewa". The campaign has four elements namely -- passenger charter, DigiYatra, AirSewa App and on-board Wi-Fi connectivity -- to broad base and provide world class facilities and amenities to passengers.
Apart from the passenger charter, the ministry informed that the Department of Telecommunications (DoT) will soon be able to give out licenses to airlines and service operators for the commencement of on-board Wi-Fi facility.
In addition, the ministry said that technical standards for its DigiYatra initiative which is a choice based -- paperless airport entry and aircraft boarding system -- will be published shortly.
"Airports such as Bangalore, Hyderabad, Kolkata, Varanasi and Vijayawada will roll-out this programme in phases by January 2019," the ministry said.