Dr.Thomas (Special Correspondent)
In India,domestic flights carried over 8.38 crore passengers in 2021,up from 6.3 crores in 2020.Apart from several regional, charter, and cargo airlines,there are now about 9 domestic airlines operating within India.
Air travel is booming, however,there have been numerous instances recently of customers being deboarded for their disruptive behaviour,yet on the other hand,few charges are being taken against the airlines for violating the rights of passengers.
On January 23,2023,two senior citizens and a SpiceJet flight attendant engaged in an altercation onboard a flight.Both passengers were deboarded from the plane and handed over to the airport security personnel.
Afterwards,authorities detained one of the passengers for acting inappropriately with a female member of the cabin crew. However, the most pressing query is: What are the rights of flight passengers given that these kinds of situations are becoming frequent occurrences?
Passengers appear helpless since no one is considering their point of view.
The two passengers in the aforementioned instance were only disagreeing and were not observed acting violently.Who then granted the airline the right to deboard them solely for speaking out their grievances.
These occurrences prompt several significant inquiries. What are passengers’ rights in these situations ? How frequent are these expulsions,and what should you do if it occurs to you?Do passengers deserve this kind of treatment after spending so much on their tickets ?
Moreover,no one is allowed to physically harm, threaten,intimidate,or obstruct a crew member while they are carrying out their duties on an operating aircraft,according to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
However, flight crews view this, though, as granting them the authority to eject any passenger for virtually any cause.
The remainder of the crew usually unites when one member decides to remove a passenger from a flight. No official channels of appeal exist.Airlines must realise that the law does not give them permission to victimise and harass people.
So, what are a passenger’s rights if they are not allowed to board?
• According to the Charter,if a passenger is refused boarding due to overbooking and is not provided with a replacement flight within one hour of the departure of the original flight,the airline must make up the difference.
• The airline must pay up to Rs.10,000 in compensation if the replacement flight is scheduled less than 24 hours after the departure of the original trip.
• The airline must pay up to Rs.20,000 in compensation if the replacement flight is scheduled more than 24 hours after the departure of the original flight.
In conclusion,passenger rights were created to safeguard air travellers.However,based on recent events,it appears that the aviation ministry is not doing enough to protect the rights of passengers who claim to have been subjected to repeated cases of abuse, assault, and harassment by the airlines.
The airlines shouldn’t take passengers for granted and unless a passenger commits an violent act, no one has the right to ask them to deboard the plane.