In a comforting piece of news for air passengers, the government on Tuesday proposed abolishing cancellation charges for domestic flight tickets if the cancellation is made within 24 hours of booking.
However, the proposed rule won't apply if the tickets are booked less than 96 hours (four days) before the scheduled departure time of the flight.
During this 24-hour "lock-in period", passengers would be able to make correction in name or amend the travel date free of cost, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha told reporters, while unveiling the draft air passengers charter here.
"Airline will provide lock-in option for 24 hours after booking ticket where ticket can be cancelled without any charges. This facility will be available for passenger up to 96 hours prior to flight departure," he said.
While some airlines already provide this service, some do charge a fee for corrections.
The charter, however, will be binding on all airlines in domestic sector. The charter has been placed in public domain and consultation process will be open for 30 days. The changes could be notified in two months after the consultation process, the government said.
The charter proposes that passengers would be compensated Rs 20,000 on missing connecting flights if the delay is over 12 hours, and Rs 10,000 if the delay is between 4-12 hours.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) could look into issues where the airlines are not in agreement with the passenger on the compensation issue, he said.
According to the charter, the cancellation charges should be printed prominently on ticket and airline and their agents together should not, under any circumstances, levy cancellation charge more than the basic fare plus fuel surcharge.
Under the existing rules, different airlines charge varying amounts on cancellation. There have been several complaints by passengers about airlines refusing a refund or charging inordinately hefty amount.
The charter also proposes that if the passenger is informed about cancellation of flight less than two weeks before and up to 24 hours of the scheduled departure time, the airline must offer an alternative flight allowing the passenger to depart within two hours of the booked scheduled departure time or refund the ticket, as acceptable to the passenger.
Further, if the flight delay is communicated by the airline more than 24 hours prior to original scheduled time and if the flight is delayed for more than 4 hours, then airlines will have to offer an option of full refund of ticket.
However, the government made it clear that airlines could not be held accountable in case of weather-related disturbances.
In case of denied boarding, airlines are liable to pay a minimum compensation of Rs. 5,000 or more, according to the proposed charter.
To make the airlines disabled-friendly, the charter proposes that airlines should have seats blocked which are accessible for persons with disabilities with adequate leg space, free of charge. It said that seats should also remain blocked until close to the time of departure.