Given how the rulebook had little that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) could use to punish erring airlines and airline officials for minor infractions—though the regulator has the power to suspend or terminate licences, this is unwarranted in cases of minor compliance violations—it is good that the regulator may now be able to impose fines. This is likely to make airlines fall in line without jeopardising their businesses.
While most nations impose monetary penalties on airlines for violation of norms, India is one of the few that is yet to have such provisions. While it is not clear how the country plans to do this, a good example to follow would be the European Union—not just for penalising violations, but also for compensating passengers, which has been another pain point for the industry.
In EU, the norms clearly stipulate fines for local carriers plus compensation to customers in case of delays. For instance, an airline is liable to pay compensation of 250 euros for cancellation of short-haul flights, 440 euros for medium-haul flights and 600 euros for long-haul ones. Moreover, passengers who reach their destination more than three hours late must each be given an amount between 200 and 600 euros as compensation, depending on the length of the flight and the delay. While India had also laid down rules for delays last year, these only apply in the case of delays of more than nine hours.
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Recently, the Supreme Court observed that if airlines were right in rejecting entry to late-comers, they should also be held to the same standard and should shell out in cases of delays for more than the stipulated time. As more people take to air travel—the industry witnessed a 15% growth to 91.34 lakh passengers in April—the regulator would certainly need more teeth to deal with errant airlines as much as for dealing with errant fliers. Also, pushing airlines to uphold certain standards should nudge the Railways, that too is plagued by delays, to revamp its image as it tries to compete with airlines for passenger share.