‘Acche din’ for flyers: Cap on airfares, lower fee on excess baggage

NEW DELHI: The Union Cabinet on Wednesday approved the much-awaited

BACKGROUND

Union Cabinet approves civil aviation policy

Highlights

  • Civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said the policy is a “game-changer”.
  • India would be the third largest civil aviation market by 2022.
  • India’s domestic air traffic market logged the fastest growth in the world in April.

NEW DELHI: The much-awaited national civil aviation policy that seeks to strengthen regional connectivity and tap the sector’s high growth potential was on Wednesday cleared by the Union Cabinet.

Civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said the policy is a “game changer” and that the country’s aviation sector is poised to become the world’s third largest by 2022.

The policy has been finalised after nearly eight months since the ministry came out with the revised draft in October 2015 and follows many rounds of deliberations with stakeholders. The NDA government had for the first time unveiled the policy draft in November 2014.

“NDA government clears India’s first ever integrated National Civil Aviation Policy. This will be a game-changer for the sector,” Raju said in a tweet.

In another tweet, the minister said India would be the third largest civil aviation market by 2022. “To achieve this, we need right intentions, vision, planning and execution,” he added.

Significantly, India’s domestic air traffic market logged the fastest growth in the world for the 13th consecutive month in April. The market grew at nearly 22 per cent during the month.

“India’s domestic traffic soared 21.8 per cent, marking the 20th month of double-digit traffic growth and the 13th consecutive month it has led the domestic markets,” global airlines body, International Air Transport Association (IATA) had said last month.

Initially, the policy was expected to be finalised in the last financial year as certain proposals were to be in effect from April 1, 2016.

However, the government had been moving back and forth on the policy seeking to sort out the differences among stakeholders including on 5/20 norm.

In the run-up to the framing of policy, various provisions including the issue of international flying norm witnessed extensive debate, with legacy carriers opposing any changes to the rule, while start-up airlines frantically demanding its scrapping.

Significantly, AirAsia Berhad — a key stakeholder in AirAsia India had recently said that it was confident of the government scrapping the norm.

“…the ruling (5/20 norm) is expected to be revoked along with a new National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) to be introduced in the near future, given massive lobbying against it,” AirAsia Berhad said in its 2015 annual report released yesterday.
The ATR aircraft has been moved to the parking bay for further inspection by the airline’s engineering team, Jet Airways said.

The airline has informed the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) about the incident and would extend full cooperation in this regard, it added. civil aviation policy
, which puts a cap of Rs 2500 for a one-hour flight on special routes and at the same time aims to extend air connectivity to more cites.

The Cabinet has also tweaked the 5/20 rule that prevented Indian airlines from flying overseas unless they have operated for at least five years and have a fleet of 20 aircraft.

Now, any domestic airline can start international operations if it puts higher of 20 aircraft or 20% of total capacity on domestic routes.

Civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said the new policy will be a “game-changer” and that the country’s aviation sector is poised to become the world’s third largest by 2022.

“The centrepiece of this policy is the BJP manifesto’s promise of Regional Connectivity,” he tweeted after the Cabinet meeting.

The new policy has a slew of passenger-friendly measures…

Here are the highlights of the new policy:

1. Under no circumstances can ticket cancellation charges be more than the “basic fare”. Carriers also cannot levy additional charges to process refunds for flyers.

2. Airlines will have to refund all statutory taxes levied in the event of flight cancellations.

3. In case of checked-in baggage, the airlines would be charging Rs 100 a kg for baggage in excess of 15 kg and up to 20 kg. At present, Rs 300 is levied for every kg of baggage beyond the 15-kg limit. Only Air India allows free baggage up to 23 kg.

4. Airlines will, though, be free to charge any fee on the baggage beyond 20kg.

5. With regard to being denied a hotel room in the event a flight is overbooked, the government has proposed a compensation of up to Rs 20,000 subject to specific conditions.

6. No compensation will be paid if a passenger is informed about a flight cancellation at least two weeks before the scheduled departure of a flight, and if the airline has arranged another flight depending on the passenger’s convenience. This would be applicable, subject to conditions, even in instances where the passenger has been informed about the cancellation less than two weeks before and up to 24 hours before the scheduled departure of the flight. In such cases, there would be no compensation if the carrier has arranged an alternate flight scheduled to depart within two hours of the scheduled departure of the cancelled flight.

7. For cancellations, the financial compensation would be Rs 5,000 or one-way basic fare plus airline fuel charge, whichever is lower, for flights having a block time of up to one hour. This amount would be Rs 7,500 in case of flights that have a block time of one to two hours. For flights that have a block time of more than two hours, the financial compensation would go up to Rs 10,000.

8. The option of holding a refund amount in credit by the airline would be decided by the passenger.

9. The onus of the refund of tickets which are booked through travel agent or portal will be on the carriers.

10. The refund process must be completed within 15 working days in case of domestic travel and 30 working days in case of international travel.

11. For foreign airlines, the refund must be in accordance with the regulations of their respective countries while the mode of refund will be governed by Indian norms.

11. Airlines should develop a procedure for making advance request for stretchers and those should be displayed on the airline’s web site.

12. For sensitisation and creating awareness about assisting people with a disability or reduced mobility, airlines, airport operators, security personnel, customs and immigration departments must conduct training programmes for their personnel. These must be done as per a training module provided by the Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment.

Contacts:
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