aviation consumer rights

This article is written by Ayush Agarwal, a student of UPES, on delay, cancellation, refund and the consumer rights related to the aviation sector in India.

Let’s know about our aviation industry a bit.

The Indian civil aviation industry is on a high growth trajectory. India has a vision of becoming the third largest aviation market by 2020 and is expected to be the largest by 2030. Quoting Mr Tony Tyler, Director General and CEO of International Air Transport Association (IATA), “The world is focused on Indian aviation – from manufacturers, tourism boards, airlines, global businesses to individual travelers, shippers and businessmen… If we can find common purpose among all stakeholders in Indian aviation, a bright future is at hand,”

In India, air traffic in terms of aircraft movement and passenger traffic has increased during the last three years. The total aircraft movements and passengers have registered a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 3.3 per cent and 5.6 per cent respectively during FY11 to FY14. In the April-May period of the current financial year, aircraft movements and passengers have increased by 5 per cent each over traffic handled during the corresponding period of FY14.

The foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows in air transport (including air freight) during April 2000 to July 2014 stood at Rs 2,348.12 crore (US$ 383.63 million), as per data released by Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP). Major investments and developments in the Indian aviation sector like IndiGo has signed a US$ 2.6 billion agreement with the Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), SpiceJet Airlines has signed a contract with GE aviation to use GE’s Flight Efficiency Services (FES), Air Costa has made capital expenditure plan for about Rs 600 crore (US$ 98.04 million), L&T Technology Services has bought 74 per cent equity stake in Thales Software India Pvt Ltd, to strengthen its avionics business, The Tata Group and Swiss aerospace and defence firm Ruag Aviation plans to set up an aircraft manufacturing facility in Hyderabad, Telangana, Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) has entered into a collaboration with IIT Kharagpur to establish a Faculty Chair.

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Directorate General of Civil Aviation

Directorate General of Civil Aviation is an attached office of the Ministry of Civil Aviation. The Directorate General of Civil Aviation is the regulatory body in the field of Civil Aviation primarily dealing with safety issues. It is responsible for regulation of air transport services to/from/within India and for enforcement of civil air regulations, air safety and airworthiness standards. It also co-ordinates all regulatory functions with International Civil Aviation Organisation. The headquarters are located in New Delhi with regional offices in the various parts of India

Delay and Cancellation of Flights:

With the increase in per capita income and development of service sector in India there is rapid expansion of air services within India and on international routes to/from India and with the increase in the volume of passenger traffic,  so it has become necessary for the Government to take appropriate action to ensure appropriate protection for the air travelers in case of flight disruptions and, in particular, denied boardings, flight cancellations and delays without due notice to the passengers booked on the flight(s). Steps taken by the government in the aviation department, helps to strengthen the rights of the passenger and also helps to create an environment of harmony between the one taking the service and the one providing it. Office of the Director General of Civil Aviation has issued Civil Aviation Requirements, where in Series M Part IV, issued on 6th August 2010 and came into force on 15th August 2010, gives the requirements to be followed for facilities to be provided to passengers by airlines due to denied boarding, cancellation of flights and delays in flights. The rules can be accessed in here http://www.goair.in/upload/CAR.pdf .

Situations where is no obligation to pay:

The rules specify that the operating airline would not have the obligation to pay compensation in cases where the cancellations and delays have been caused by an event(s) of force majeure i.e. extraordinary circumstance(s) beyond the control of the airline, the impact of which lead to the cancellation/delay of flight(s), and which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken by the airline. Such extraordinary circumstances may in particular, occur due to political instability, natural disaster, civil war, insurrection or riot, flood, explosion, government regulation or order affecting the aircraft, strikes and labour disputes causing cessation, slowdown or interruption of work or any other factors that are beyond the control of the airline. Additionally, airlines would also not be liable to pay any compensation in respect of cancellations and delays clearly attributable to Air Traffic Control (ATC), meteorological conditions, security risks, or any other causes that are beyond the control of the airline but which affect their ability to operate flights on schedule

Facilities to be provided in cases of cancellation or delays:

Passengers shall be offered free of charge the following:

  1. a) Meals and refreshments in relation to waiting time,
  2. b) Hotel Accommodation when necessary (including transfers).

Denied Boarding:

It may happen some of the cases where the number of passengers, who have been given confirmed bookings for travel on the flight is more than the number of seats available. In this situation the airline must first ask for volunteers to give up their seats so as to make seats available for other booked passengers to travel on the flight, in exchange of such benefits/facilities as the airline, at its own discretion, may wish to offer, provided airports concerned have dedicated check-in facilities/gate areas which make it practical for the airline to do so.

If the boarding is denied to passengers against their will, the airline shall as soon as practicable compensate them in accordance with the provisions of in addition to refund of air ticket.

Cancellation of Flight

In order to reduce inconvenience caused to the passengers as a result of the cancellations of the flights on which they are booked to travel, whenever possible, airlines should endeavour to invariably inform the passengers of cancellations of their flights as far in advance as possible of the scheduled time of departure provided at the time of effecting his/her reservation, the passenger has given relevant contact information e.g. telephone number (landline or mobile), and/or fax number and/or e-mail id or in any alternate reasonable form requested for by the airline.

Passengers who have not been informed at least three hours in advance about the cancellation of the flight on which they were scheduled to travel,

  1. Airlines shall provide compensation for the inconvenience caused
  2. Refund the ticket prices in the event they do not wish to travel instead on an alternate or subsequent flight of the carrier concerned or on another carrier’s flight or if so desired by the passengers, provide them alternate travel opportunities at no additional cost; and
  • Additionally provide them facilities at the airport.

In the following cases, passengers are denied of the right to have compensation:

  1. They do not accept the alternate travel arrangements made by the airline; or
  2. The cancellations occur due to extraordinary circumstances beyond the control of the airline (as described above) even if all reasonable measures had been taken by the airline.

Delays in Flight

The airlines shall provide facilities in accordance with:

(a) If the passenger has checked in on time, and if the airline expects a delay beyond its original announced scheduled time of departure or a revised time of departure of:

  1. a) 2 hours or more in case of flights having a block time of up to 2 ½ hrs; or
  2. b) 3 hours or more in case of flights having a block time of more than 2 ½hrs and up to 5 hours
  3. c) 4 hours or more in case of flights not falling under sub-para (a) and (b)

When the reasonably expected time of departure is more than 24 hrs after the scheduled time of departure previously announced, the airline shall provide the facility to the passengers in accordance with the provisions mentioned above

An operating airline shall not be obliged to adhere to above-mentioned facilities if the delay is caused due to extraordinary circumstances which could not have been avoided even if all reasonable measures had been taken.

The burden of proof concerning the questions as to whether and when the passenger has been informed of the delay of the flight shall rest with the operating airline.


The act gives in the financial compensation; it is indicated below that what amount shall be given only if the amount of tickets costs is higher than the compensation amount:

  1. a) Rs. 2,000/- or the value of the ticket whichever is less for flights having a block time of upto and including one hour
  2. b) Rs. 3.000/- or the value of the ticket whichever is less for flights having block time of more than one hour and upto and including two hours.
  3. c) Rs. 4,000/- or the value of the ticket whichever is less for flights having a block time of more than two hours.

If the cost of the ticket is less than the amount of compensation indicated above, the airline will be liable to compensate an amount equivalent to the ticket cost in addition to refund of air ticket.

Additionally, the passenger shall be offered the choice between the following:

  1. a) Refund of air ticket at the price it was purchased.
  2. b) A flight to the first point of departure.
  3. c) Alternate transportation under comparable/alternate mode of transport (whenever applicable), to the final destination.
  4. d) Alternate transportation under comparable/alternate mode of transport (whenever applicable), to their final destination at a later date at the passengers’ convenience, subject to availability of seats.

The affected passenger shall be the compensation alternatives listed in above para. Once the option has been selected the affected passenger will not have the option to switch to another form of compensation.

Refund of Tickets

Direction issued by Office of the Director General of Civil Aviation has issued Civil Aviation Requirements, where in Series M Part II, issue 1, DATED 22 May, 2008 effective forthwith deals with Refund of Airline Tickets to Passengers of Public Transport Undertakings. The act can also be accessed in here http://dgca.nic.in/rules/car-ind.htm provides:

A large number of complaints are regularly received which can broadly be divided into the following categories: (a) Delay in refund of unused ticket (b) The amount which is refunded by the airlines against cancelled tickets. (c) Policy of not to refund the ticket amount but to adjust against tickets to be purchased by the passenger for future travel in the same airline that too valid for a limited period of time.

These are some of the common problems faced by the consumers when their tickets get cancelled. To overcome these problems, some guidelines have been issued, which are:

  • In case of credit card payments, refund shall be made by the airlines within seven days of the cancellation to the account of credit card holder.
  • In case of cash transactions, refund shall be made immediately by the airlines office from where the ticket was purchased.
  • In case of purchase of ticket through travel agents, the arrangement for refund be left to the passenger and the travel agent.
  • Airlines shall necessarily return the PSF collected by them from the passengers on non-utilization/ cancellation of tickets.
  • Airlines shall refund any charges such as congestion charge, fuel surcharge etc., alongwith the refund of the ticket, unless these are clubbed with basic fares. Note: For the charges, surcharges levied by the airlines, the word ‘tax’ or ‘taxes’ should not be used.
  • When being offered tickets for future travel, passengers shall be allowed an option for refund of money instantly.
  • The airlines should indicate in an unambiguous manner the amount of refund of money admissible on cancellation of a ticket. For this purpose, the amount and its break-up may be indicated on the ticket itself or through separate form used for the purpose, and the policy and amount of refund shall also be displayed by the airlines on their respective websites.
  • In case of lost ticket coupons, the airlines shall take prompt action to refund the ticket amount after verification from their records.

Important cases

Air Deccan (Deccan Aviation Ltd) Vs. Dinesh B.V. & Anr -01/10/2013

Brief facts of the case are that Complainant no. 1/Respondent no. 1 and his mother, Complainant no. 2/Respondent no. 2 booked tickets with OP/petitioner for 19.11.2006 from Bangalore to Chennai.  Complainants got checked their luggage and got boarding pass.  After arriving in Chennai, they were unable to get their bag and on inquiry came to know that it was misplaced and accordingly airport authorities issued endorsement in that regard.  The said bag was containing valuable clothes and other articles, but could not be traced.  Alleging deficiency on the part of OP, complainant filed complaint.  OP-petitioner resisted complaint and denied allegation of missing of the bag and further alleged that complainant has not mentioned the weight of the alleged baggage and prayed for dismissal of the complaint.  Learned District Forum after hearing both the parties allowed complaint and directed OP to pay 400 US$ (Rs.15,804/-) along with Rs.1,000/- as litigation cost.

Saroj Diksha & ors v International Airport Authority of India – 01/02/2013

The case was filled by the petitioner before the Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission before which the appellant alleged that the respondent failed to provide adequate medical facilities on the airport due to which her husband died on the way to AIIMS. After listing to the arguments from both the sides, Commission came to the conclusion that there was no medical fault on the part of respondent, but there was administrative fault on the part of the respondent where they were not able to provide adequate facilities on the airport to deal with such type of cases and also they provided with just one doctor. The compensation awarded was Rs. 35000.

Kingfisher Airlines Limited v Lata Sikri- 11/10/2012

Despite of having an OK/confirm ticket respondent was not allowed to board the ticket, the reason cited by the appellant was over booking. Appellant took care of the all the guidelines issued by DGCA(as discussed above) and provided her with next flight tickets, offered her return journey free of cost and paid for travelling expenses from airport to her home. Yet the respondent was allowed compensation of 30000/-. The reason cited for the order was:

“From the above, it is evident that the consumer fora are well within its rights to award compensation not only for the monetary loss or injury suffered by the complainant but also for injustice suffered by the consumer.  In the case in hand, going by the entirety of the facts and circumstances, we find that the fora below have done no wrong in awarding a compensation of Rs. 30,000/- to the respondent-complainant for the mental agony and harassment faced by her, besides, the return domestic ticket, which was offered by the petitioner-Airlines itself to the complainant in the very beginning.”

Air India v Dr. Mary Ramasamy & Ors. – 12/04/2012

Facts: In the present case respondent booked tickets of the flight from Chennai to Melbourne. By the time they reached airport, they came to know that their name does not appear on the list. To this appellant replied that the tickets were booked by the travel agent few days back. A confirmation male was send to the travel agent but agent did not reply to that. To this the authority cancelled the tickets. It was held under the judgment given by the consumer court that:

“In the case in hand, the complainants all of whom were women including minors had O.K. tickets in their possession and they could not imagine that on reaching the airport, they will be confronted with a situation that their tickets had been cancelled leaving them in a lurch because they did not belong to Chennai City and had come to Chennai from some interior part from Tamil Nadu and they had to travel further to Melbourne from Singapore by a connecting Quantas flight.  Information about the cancellation of their tickets must have come as a life time rude shock to them.  As a result of which they were on the streets of Chennai uptil the next flight which was 24 hours later.  It is not difficult to visualize the kind of mental harassment and torture complainants would have suffered during those hours.  They were certainly entitled for a better treatment from a National carrier like the Petitioner. From a conspectus of the entire circumstances, there is no escape from the conclusion that the petitioner/Airlines has not only committed  grave deficiency in service by cancelling the O.K./confirmed tickets of the complainants but the said act would also amount to adoption of malpractice or what is called unfair trade practice.  We wish that the petitioner/Airlines would stop such a practice forthwith.”

The respondent was allowed compensation of Rs. 25000/- with Rs. 5000/- litigation expenses.

So next time you travel through airways and your flight gets cancelled or gets delayed make sure you know your rights and ask for the services you deserve. You should get what you deserve as you are paying for it.


  1. […] Aviation: Delay, Cancellation, Refund and Consumer Rights – iPleaders […]

    • Depends on the refund policy of the airline from which tickets are booked. However, this cannot be a ground on which refund could be granted

  2. We booked the ticket in air peagasus. On 22 July it was cancelled and it was reschedule on 23 July. Again it was cancelled. Even the air port peagasus staff doesn’t know the next schedule on 24th July.
    Even they are denying to do alternate arrangements. Kindly let me know how to file a complaint and get a compensation.

  3. We were in bulk to fly with airlines few of us get checked in but others left and particular flight did not waited for them .
    Will they get some relief through consumer court.

  4. will u plz advise what is the compansation policy in case of fligth delays or cancelled. and if we had discomfort during travel where to complaint


  6. Can u explain it pls.

    Delays in Flight:

    2 hours or more in case of flights having a block time of up to 2 ½ hrs.


    Rs. 2,000/- or the value of the ticket whichever is less for flights having a block time of upto and including one hour

    Particularly the meaning of “Block time of upto and including one hour”.

    • Sir,
      sub: booking Ref : 4842920 PNR : IMQBRZ FLGHT : 9W 2383 20-OCT15 & 9W 416 25-OCT15
      We have purchased our ticket on 26th Sept 15 thru travel Agent : Hari OM Travels, Ajmer Raj 305001
      Ticket amount : basic fare Rs.18,900/- Taxes and fees INRs.5,193/- total INRs.24,093/-

      before departure we have cancelled our ticket @ 11 pm 19th oct 2015 .. flight on 20 oct 15 08.25 hrs

      while contacting for refund travel agent advised only tax amount will be refunded? about INRs.3,000/-
      very surprised we contacted Airlines . They informed ticket was issued as non Rrefundable ? so only Tax amount will be refunded ?

      Where as on ticket issued by Travel Agent there is no mention of NON _ REFUNDABLE ?

      further we sent message to Jet Airways .asking who is the beneficiary of the principle amount i.e. cost of ticket ?
      . in return they informed AIRLINE ? So why Airline should get money when their services were not utilized ( seat were not used by the passenger) when Govt do not take TAX and they have right toreud ? so WHY the actual cost will be taken by the Airline?
      Their point is some tickets are issued under certain terms ? so Travel agent must appraised the passenger while issuing such ticket ?

      So keeping this information between Travel agent and Airline is nor fair practice ? neither they marked Non refundable nor non cancellation clause on the ticket issued by the agent ?

      . Please advise .
      thanking you
      Ramesh B Bhatia
      -9783306006 / 8094004007


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