7 in 10 fliers surveyed say they have had one or more flights cancelled or rescheduled in the last one year due to internal reasons of the airline; 9 in 10 want Government to mandate airlines to pay a penalty to passengers in such cases
- ● Fliers cite experiences of boarding denial by airlines on being a few minutes late for check-in; being forced to pay a higher fare on the next flight
January 19, 2024, New Delhi: At the start of the year, the Union Ministry of Civil Aviation had asked airlines operators and representatives to do justice to passengers amid a large number of complaints about flight cancellations and delays due to fog and other operational-related issues. In December 2023, the Government had issued guidelines to airlines about compensation to be paid to air passengers in the event of flight cancellations and delays.
In addition, Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia was reported to have held a meeting with airlines operators and their representatives along with senior officials during which they were asked to strictly follow the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) in terms of flight cancellations or delay, and refund policies. All these efforts seem to have been in vain as thousands of fliers at various airports, particularly in the northern states, were reported to have faced considerable harassment due to delays or cancellation of flights with limited intimation about the status. Fliers stranded at many airports including at Delhi, Lucknow, Bengaluru, Bhubaneshwar, Gauwhati, etc. among others shared pictures, video clippings and complaints on social media, showcasing the sorry state of affairs as modernization and upgraded facilities and staff at many airports were not living up to expectations of the travelers. In one case, a passenger assaulted an airline pilot onboard the aircraft in Delhi while in another case, passengers of a flight in Mumbai were found having a meal on the tarmac besides the aircraft. In another scenario, passengers were reported to have been held in aerobridge for 2 hours and there were many videos of fliers having heated arguments with airline staff onboard aircraft and on ground. Delays of 2-10 hours were reported across the country. One of the key complaints of fliers as reported on LocalCircles and other social media platforms was lack of transparent information sharing by the airlines, leaving them wondering what was happening. Many passengers have alleged that the airlines used the fog related situation last week to mask delays that were caused due to their internal problems like crew, aircraft availability, etc. In several cases, the point that is being raised by the fliers is the practice by airlines to deny boarding to passengers at times when they reach the check-in counter just a couple of minutes late, directing them to pay fare difference on the next flight while at the same time there is zero penalty paid to passengers when the airline cancels or reschedules a flight due to internal issues.
Looking past the last couple of weeks, LocalCircles conducted a survey to gather pulse of the fliers on flight cancellations or reschedules by airlines due to internal reasons, the frequency of such incidents in the past one year along with what should be the penalty on airlines if they reschedule or cancel flights due to internal reasons. The survey received 23,000 responses from air passengers located in over 318 districts of the country. 61% respondents were men while 39% respondents were women. 46% respondents were from tier 1, 34% from tier 2 and 20% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts.
7 in 10 fliers surveyed say they have had a cancelled or rescheduled flight once or more this year by the airline due to internal operational reasons
As some airlines are still not following the practice of keeping fliers informed about all delays, reschedules and cancellations, leading to significant inconvenience for them, the survey asked “In the last 12 months, how many times have airlines rescheduled or cancelled your flight due to their internal (non-weather, security, government order, etc.) reasons?” The query received 11,296 responses with 20% indicating “4-6 times”; 30% of respondents indicated “2-3 times” and 20% of respondents indicated “once”. In addition, 20% of respondents indicated “never” and the remaining 10% did not give a clear response. To sum up, 7 in 10 fliers surveyed say they have had a cancelled or rescheduled flight once or more this year by the airline due to internal operational reasons.
9 in 10 fliers want the government to mandate airlines to pay 25-50% value of ticket as penalty to them if they reschedule or cancel flights due to low load factor or internal reasons
The survey next asked fliers, many of whom have faced problems due to delay or cancellation of flights “What should be the disincentives for airlines to not cancel or reschedule flights because of empty seats or low load factor on the flight?” The query received 11,923 responses with the majority or 78% of respondents indicating that “there should be a minimum penalty equivalent to 50% of ticket value payable to the passenger” and 12% indicated that “there should be a minimum penalty equivalent to 25% of ticket value”. However, 2% of the respondents felt “there should be no penalty” and 8% gave no clear response. To sum up, 9 in 10 fliers want the government to mandate airlines to pay 25-50% value of ticket as penalty to them if they reschedule or cancel flights due to low load factor or internal reasons.
According to fliers, where things stand today, an airline can delay a flight via multiple notifications of one hour delay leading to an eventual delay of 3 hours and at best a few passengers may opt out of traveling and get a refund of fare they paid or an alternate flight. There is no major financial disincentive to the airline for delaying for internal reasons and that is a major concern for many fliers. A comparison that has been sighted is when fliers are late by a few minutes in reaching the airline check-in counter, they not only face boarding denial but in most cases are directed to the airline ticket counter to buy a ticket on the next available flight and in most cases end up paying a significant amount to the airline. A few passengers based on their experience have alleged that some airlines are overbooking flights as a business strategy and then closing check-in 60 minutes before departure time and generating additional revenue from them in the form of fare difference to travel on the next available flight.
In summary, 7 in 10 fliers surveyed say they have had a cancelled or rescheduled flight once or more this year by various airlines due to internal operational reasons. As a penalty, 9 in 10 fliers want the government to mandate airlines to pay at least 25-50% value of ticket to them if they reschedule or cancel flights due to low load factor or internal reasons. The key issue cited by passengers is the unfair playing field where airlines deny boarding to passengers reaching check- in counter even a few minutes late and collect additional amounts in fare differences while at the same time do not incur any penalties for delaying, rescheduling or cancelling flights for internal airline reasons. There is a need for the regulator to step in here and introduce appropriate penalties for airlines in such scenarios as it may well push airlines to ensure they are better prepared with appropriate resources and thereby minimize delays due to internal reasons. This is likely to improve on-time performance of the entire aviation ecosystem and thereby raise air passenger satisfaction levels in India.
The survey received 23,000 responses from air passengers located in over 318 districts of the country. 61% respondents were men while 39% respondents were women. 46% respondents were from tier 1, 34% from tier 2 and 20% respondents were from tier 3, 4 and rural districts. The survey was conducted via LocalCircles platform and all participants were validated citizens who had to be registered with LocalCircles to participate in this survey.