The regulations on paying compensation to air travellers who are denied boarding on an aircraft have been thrown into the spotlight with a landmark ruling by the National Consumer Commission.
The Commission fined Indian airline Jet Airways for breaching the rules on denied boarding and withholding compensation to a traveller. It’s a case which may well stimulate greater clarity on this issue; a much-needed development due to that fact this is an increasingly common problem for international travellers.
Various international laws govern when – and how much – compensation should be paid for situations in which travellers with valid flight tickets are turned away. However, an already complex set of regulations is open to some interpretation, leaving passengers in the dark (as well as in the airport).
Long running compensation claim exposed grey areas
Some of the “grey” areas in the system of redress for denied boarding were exposed in the landmark case, brought by Kolkata-based Radha Kejriwal.
Kejriwal was studying in the UK and setting off to fly between London and Delhi when the controversial incident occurred in December 2009. She found herself denied the opportunity to board her flight and was told it was because she arrived 70 minutes before departure time, rather than the 75 minutes the airline has stipulated.
She has been seeking compensation through various legal channels since 2010 when she filed a complaint with a District Forum. The District Forum found in her favour in 2013, only for the decision to be overturned when the airline appealed to the State Commission.
Undeterred, Kejriwal filed a revision plea to the National Commission, which found in her favour. The Commission mandated Jet Airways to pay compensation, with interest accrued since 2010. It also urged the Director General of Civil Aviation and Civil Aviation Ministry to create clearer guidelines. It felt these were needed to ensure air travellers aren’t subject to “harassment” when they have valid flight tickets but are turned away without good reason.
Not valid reasons to deny boarding or avoid compensation payment
The debate centred on the fact that Kejriwal was denied entry to the aircraft, and denied compensation, as she arrived 70 minutes before the departure. The airline argued its cut-off point was 75 minutes before departure.
The Commission pointed out that the aircraft was overbooked, and that three passengers voluntarily agreed to take a later flight, for which they received compensation and overnight accommodation. Even more significantly, the Commission believed two of the passengers accommodated by the airline had arrived at the airport after Kejriwal.
Also, Jet Airways couldn’t produce documented evidence that the 75-minute deadline was part of the “contract of travel”. The Commission therefore ruled that Kejriwal’s arrival time at the airport was not a legitimate reason to deny her the same benefits or compensation that were offered to passengers who met the 75-minute deadline.
Next step for denied boarding
There are various international laws which govern the subject of compensation for passengers who are denied entry onto an aircraft due to cancelled or overbooked flight. Some experts believe this problem has become increasingly common due to pressure on airlines to return a profit, causing them to deliberately over sell on seats.
You may be entitled to compensation if you have been denied entry on to an aircraft – at any time in the last six years – due to circumstances that were the responsibility of the airline. Get in touch with us so we can guide you through the complex regulations and scales that apply to this situation and we can progress any claim to a swift resolution.