Pune: The uncertainty that has recently gripped the aviation industry is causing a delay in the proposed passenger charter, which would protect the rights of passengers.
In an e-mail reply to TOI, the Union minister of state for civil aviation, Jayant Sinha, touched upon the reasons for the charter getting delayed, even though the draft was finalized in May by the civil aviation ministry. “We have received many inputs from the stakeholders, including all the airlines, on the passenger charter. We are evaluating these inputs. Also, we would like to be able to implement the charter when industry conditions are somewhat better,” Sinha stated.
The passenger charter covers several provisions, including compensation to be awarded to passengers by the airlines in case of flight delays.
An airline official at the Pune airport, on the condition of anonymity, said that they had little information on the subject, but confirmed that compensation was an issue.
“From what we know, (the delay) has to do with the compensation, that too when quite a few airlines, including the big names in the country, are battling a major financial crisis and are bleeding money. In such a scenario, the proposed compensation rates are too high and need to be softened,” the official told TOI.
Passengers at the Pune airport have frequently voiced complaints on various issues, but none more so than flight delays. Flights see delays nearly every week, and there have been instances when passengers were forced to sit for more than an hour in an aircraft after landing or after boarding, because of the unavailability of parking bays or runway. Second on the list of regular grievances were the long queues at the airport check-in and security counters.
Samarth Arora, a frequent flyer, the cancellation refund often issued by airlines was laughable and doesn’t even cover the base fare. Arora also had a theory on the delay. “I have heard that the passenger charter is not getting the green light due to arm-twisting by the airlines,” Arora said.
Arun Charthe, who also travels often, spoke about disparity. “While I am not condoning the actions of Osmanabad Member of Parliament Ravindra Gaikwad last year, what he did resulted in the quick finalizing and releasing of the ‘No-Fly Regulations’ protecting the airlines’ staff. However, when it comes to passengers’ rights, they don’t seem to mind a delay,” he said. Charthe was referring to the incident where Gaikwad lost his cool on board an Air India flight and assaulted a staffer 25 times with his footwear. That had sparked outrage among the airline fraternity, and led to Gaikwad being temporarily banned from Air India planes.
Aviation expert and analyst Dhairyashil Vandekar, however, felt it was not quite as black and white. “The airlines are presumably negotiating to ensure that less money is charged as compensation. With many airports now overcrowded, airlines are not able to stick to their timetable; their on-time performance has been affected gravely. And economics too has a part to play in this, with costlier aviation fuel and strengthening dollar bleeding the airlines dry. In such a scenario, airlines will want the Union government to soften the draft, delay it or even put in on hold until the volatile scenario becomes normal,” Vandekar told TOI.