Airlines to pay for overbooking: DGCA

New Delhi: Aviation regulator DGCA has told Delhi High Court that it does not permit the practice of overbooking of flights and airlines are liable to compensate the passengers who are denied boarding despite having confirmed tickets.

Air India conceded before the court that not permitting a passenger holding confirmed tickets to board a flight would amount to deficiency of service and the consumer had the right to seek compensation.

After noting the unequivocal stand of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) and Air India, Justice Vibhu Bakhru said it was not necessary to examine the question whether the aviation regulator had the jurisdiction to issue civil aviation regulations (CAR) on the issue.

The replies of the DGCA and Air India came on a petition filed by a person questioning a 2010 CAR issued by the regulator that recognises the concept of overbooking by airlines. The petitioner claimed that the CAR allows overbooking of flights, which should not be permitted.

The court said a plain reading of the CAR provision relating to denied boarding indicated that the DGCA had recognised that certain airlines followed the practice of overbooking.

However, it cannot be read to mean that the aviation regulator permits the airlines to do so, the court said. "It certainly cannot mean that such practice has the sanction of law," the court said.

The petitioner's counsel contended that the DGCA had no power to issue directives restricting the compensation payable to passengers who were denied boarding.

However, the counsel for the DGCA contended that the petitioner had misread the CAR to mean that the DGCA had countenanced such a practice. The lawyer said it had issued the rules to ensure that the passengers who are denied boarding are paid immediate compensation and necessary arrangements for their travel were made by the airline concerned.

He said this did not mean that the DGCA had permitted airlines to adopt such practices.

The DGCA counsel said the rules could not be read so as to cap the liability of various airlines and the amount of compensation mentioned in the CAR indicated only the immediate relief that the airlines were required to provide to the passengers who had been denied boarding.

He said this did not bind the passengers in any manner and they were not precluded from taking any action to recover further compensation as available in law.

The Air India counsel supported the DGCA's stand that said the passenger's right to claim compensation was not restricted by the CAR and the petitioner had not made any claim from Air India for not being permitted to travel from Delhi to Patna on December 12, 2015.

The petitioner had said he was scheduled to travel from Delhi to Patna on December 12, 2015, and return the next day. He booked tickets with Air India on October 28, 2015.

When he reached the airport on time on December 12, 2015, he was denied boarding on account of overbooking, he said. Despite having confirmed ticket, he could not reach Patna as scheduled.

The court disposed of the petition after the passenger did not seek to press for any further relief. PTI


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