Is Air India only trying to scare its already harrowed passengers?

Rohit Chandavarkar
Thursday, 11 May 2017

National carrier Air India is considering imposing a penalty of up to Rs 15 lakh on unruly passengers for flight delays! This would perhaps come as a shock to most passengers of Air India who are used to regular delays and sometimes even unfriendly behaviour by the ground and air crew.

Air travel in India is growing at a phenomenal rate. The year-on-year rate of growth of this sector is recorded at over 17% per annum, which is one of the highest in any economy in the world.

National carrier Air India is considering imposing a penalty of up to Rs 15 lakh on unruly passengers for flight delays! This would perhaps come as a shock to most passengers of Air India who are used to regular delays and sometimes even unfriendly behaviour by the ground and air crew.

Air travel in India is growing at a phenomenal rate. The year-on-year rate of growth of this sector is recorded at over 17% per annum, which is one of the highest in any economy in the world.

New players like Air Asia, Vistara and some foreign carriers are entering the market to meet the needs of the growing passengers’ demand and the government raised the Foreign Direct Investment in the aviation sector to 100% from the original 49% about a year ago.   

Generally, the service quality offered to the passengers has improved a lot since an era of competition is experienced in the Indian skies. However, some carriers such as Air India, still live in their traditional world. This according to most aviation experts happens because of the legacy of government control on the carrier. The airline is riddled with the VIP culture and many times is dominated by politicians who hold up flights or sometimes even get into rowdy acts.

But one must note that too many news stories of Air India flights getting delayed beyond reasonable limit or Air India passengers getting stranded at some airport because of some technical snag in the aircraft or because of crew members coming late are appearing currently in the media.

Stories of passengers stranded for 15 hours, 17 hours at some airport abroad because of airline’s logistical problems appeared recently in the media. In such cases if passengers complain in a loud voice to the ground crew members, what is the guarantee that such behaviour will not be treated as unruly behaviour? And what is the guarantee that passengers who are already harrowed because of inordinate delays will not be forced to pay some fine?  What consumer protection is guaranteed in such cases?

The latest proposal by the airline comes less than a month after Shiv Sena MP Ravindra Gaikwad assaulted a staffer of the national carrier.

Now, the airline is mulling  penalising passengers who delay flights and the amount could be up to Rs 15 lakh. If a delay is caused because of a passenger being unruly, a fine of Rs 5 lakh would be levied for delay up to one hour and the amount would be Rs 10 lakh in case the delay is between one to two hours, airline sources said. The fine would be Rs 15 lakh for more than two hours’ delay.

But the airline has not said anything about the delays caused from their side.

What would be the compensation from the airline offered to passengers if a flight gets delayed by 2 or 3 hours because the pilot arrives late as he or she is coming to the concerned flight after finishing some other flight on some other sector (which happens regularly on Air India)?  

The larger question is going to be “what constitutes ‘unruly behaviour’ and who will give the verdict on it”?

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