In an unequivocal stand, the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and national carrier Air Indiahas told the Delhi high court that a passenger has the right to seek compensation in case of denial to fly due to over-booking, over and above its rules that provide slab-wise refund.
The response by the two entities came on a petition filed by a lawyer questioning the 2010 DGCA rules that recognise the concept of over-booking by airlines.
The High court was hearing a petition filed by Advocate Pallav Mongia who was denied boarding by Air India on account of overbooking. Pallav has challenged the validity of paragraph 3.2 of Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) which permits overbooking of flights.
Mr. Mongia claimed that he was scheduled to travel from Delhi to Patna on December 12, 2015, and had booked tickets with Air India well in advance. However, he was denied boarding despite having confirmed tickets. He further contended that the compensation payable to passengers who are denied boarding despite holding confirmed bookings has been restricted by the CAR.
Mongia also highlighted how passengers have no redressal in cases where airlines close their check-in counters early, simply as means to facilitate the unfair ‘denied boarding’ practice.
“A plain reading of paragraph 3.2 indicates that the DGCA has recognised that certain airlines follow the practice of over-booking flights. However, the same cannot be read to mean that the DGCA has permitted the airlines to do so. And, it certainly cannot mean that such practice has the sanction of law,” Justice Vibhu Bakhru noted while disposing of a petition filed by Pallav Mongia, through advocate Ashish Virmani, challenging the DGCA rules.
HC was satisfied with the clear stand of DGCA and Air India that a passenger aggrieved by the action of an airline in denying a passenger boarding can approach civil and consumer courts to claim damages, in addition to the minimum damages prescribed under the DGCA regulations.
DGCA added that its 2010 rules doesn’t put a cap on the compensation that can be demanded from the airline in cases of over-booking and a passenger has full right to approach a court for relief. The court recorded DGCA’s stand that its rules are meant to “ensure that the passengers who are denied boarding are paid immediate compensation and necessary arrangements for their travel are made by the airline concerned. This did not mean that the DGCA had permitted the airlines to adopt the said practices and the petitioner’s right to claim compensation/damages was not restricted.”