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Aviation regulator DGCA proposes full refund, free travel for seat downgrade in flights

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Travellers push trolleys with their luggage at the departure area of the Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi. File
| Photo Credit: Reuters

Domestic and international airlines could soon be required to refund the full ticket value and provide free travel for any passenger whom they downgrade from business or premium economy to economy class, according to a proposal of the aviation regulator.

The suggestion comes at a time when there have been several complaints about airlines such as Air India downgrading passengers to a lower class than the one they booked because of issues such as unserviceable seats.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) will invite stakeholders’ comment on its proposal before amending a section of its Civil Aviation Requirement that lays down compensation norms for those denied boarding, or facing flight delays and cancellation.

“In view of rapid expansion of air services within India and on international routes to or from India and with the increase in the volume of passenger traffic, it has been noticed that sometimes airlines downgrade passenger tickets. In order to cater to such situations, we are in the process of amending CAR to protect the rights of air travellers,” DGCA director general Arun Kumar said.

Stringent norms

Airlines are likely to oppose the DGCA’s recommendation, given that it is far more stringent than common global practices.

For instance, in the U.S., according to the Department of Transport’s website, a passengers is only entitled to a refund for the difference in price of the two classes.

In the U.K., according to its Civil Aviation Authority, a passenger is only entitled to reimbursement of a percentage of the ticket price for the flight on which they are downgraded. If a flight is upto 1,500 km long, a passenger can get 30% of the flight price, if it is between 1,500-3,500 km long it is 50% of the flight price, and when it is more than 3,500 km the refund amount is 75% of the flight price.

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