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Consumer protection and liability
Are airfares regulated in your jurisdiction?
In terms of Rule 135 of the Aircraft Rules 1937, airfares are established having regard to factors such as cost of operation, characteristics of service, reasonable profit and the generally prevailing tariff. The government has permitted services to be unbundled and charged separately on an opt-in basis, including:
- preferential seating;
- meal, snack and drink charges (except drinking water);
- charges for using airline lounges; and
- check-in baggage charges.
What rules and liabilities are air carriers subject to in respect of:
(a) Flight delays and cancellations?
In the event of delay beyond the specified timeline, airlines must offer meals and refreshments during the waiting time and hotel accommodation free of charge to passengers. Where airlines cancel flights without informing passengers, they may have to pay compensation of upto Rs10,000 (approximately $164) or booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge, whichever is less, in addition to a refund of the ticket price. For foreign carriers, compensation is based on the terms of the regulations of their country of origin or upto 400% of the booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge, subject to a maximum of Rs20,000 ($328).
(b) Oversold flights?
If a flight is oversold, airlines usually ask for volunteers to surrender their seats. Airlines provide such volunteers with an alternative flight alongwith certain benefits. Where passengers are denied boarding against their will, the airline must provide them with an alternate flight within one hour of the original scheduled departure time, failing which it may have to refund the full ticket price and pay compensation of upto 400% of the booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge, subject to a maximum of Rs20,000 ($328).
(c) Denied boarding?
Where a passenger is denied boarding against his or her will, the airline must arrange an alternate flight for the passenger within one hour of the original scheduled departure, failing which it may have to refund the full value of the ticket and pay compensation of up to 400% of the booked one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge, subject to a maximum of Rs20,000 ($328).
(d) Access for disabled passengers?
Airlines cannot refuse to carry persons with a disability or reduced mobility or their aids, devices and escorts in the cabin, provided that such persons or their representatives, at the time of booking, inform the airline of their requirements. Airlines must make available in accessible format, on their website, the safety rules that apply to persons with a disability or reduced mobility as well as any restrictions on their carriage or mobility equipment due to the size of the aircraft. Airlines must obtain necessary information about the specific requirements of such persons at the time of booking. Persons with a disability or reduced mobility must notify the airline of their needs 48 hours before the scheduled departure time. Airlines must make suitable arrangements for assisting disabled persons for their quick clearance and baggage delivery. Airport operators must display signage throughout the airport in a clear and unambiguous manner, and must provide ramps for easy access.
(e) Lost, damaged or destroyed luggage?
India is a party to the Warsaw Convention, the Hague Protocol and the Montreal Convention, which set out airlines’ liabilities. An airline is liable for damages sustained because of loss, damage or destruction of any registered luggage or any goods, if the damage so sustained took place during the carriage by air. For instance, this is Rs20,000 ($328) for each passenger for destruction, loss, damage or delay with respect to baggage under the Montreal Convention. Passengers usually file complaints under the Consumer Protection Act 1986 on the ground of ‘deficiency of service’ for cases ranging from delayed flights and lost baggage to death.
(f) Retention and protection of passenger data?
What rules and liabilities apply to the air carriage of cargo?
The Carriage by Air Act 1972 deals with the liability of the carrier. It is Rs350 ($5) per kilogram for destruction, loss, damage or delay with respect to carriage of cargo under the Montreal Convention.
Marketing and advertising
Do any special rules apply to the marketing and advertising of aviation services?
No, but the advertisements must be fair so as to inform customers of available choices and must not be offensive to generally accepted standards of advertisement or public decency.
Do any special rules apply to consumer complaints handling in the aviation industry?
Complaints can be filed with a nodal officer of the concerned airline or airport operator. If the issue remains unresolved, complaints can be filed with the appellate authority of the concerned airline or airport operator. Airline and airport operators must address grievances within one month. In case of non-redressal within the stipulated timeframe, the matter is overseen by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. In addition, a consumer complaint may be filed under the Consumer Protection Act 1986 for deficiency of services.
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