A term coined by the aviation industry, the instances of bumped off passengers are sadly high across the world.
In September 2015, Sardool Singh Ghumman, an associate professor from Longowal in Punjab’s Sangrur district, was returning to Chandigarh after attending the European Nuclear Physics Conference at Groningen, The Netherlands.
Moments before the connecting Air India flight from New Delhi was set to take off to Chandigarh, Ghumman was unceremoniously deboarded from the flight, without any particular reason.
In addition to the rude behaviour from the cabin crew, the man was also subjected to indifference and a lack of reasoning by the airline authorities at the airport. Left with no option, he travelled to Chandigarh in a taxi, spending Rs 5,500 in the process.
Traumatised by the unprofessional and unpleasant experience, he went ahead and filed a case against Air India at the Consumer Forum of Chandigarh.
Finding a deficiency on the airline’s part, the Forum directed it to pay Rs 15,500, which included the taxi fare, compensation, as well as the cost of litigation.
Dissatisfied by the compensation, Ghumman then filed an appeal at the State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission at Chandigarh, citing that the amount was meagre and didn’t address the trauma and stress he underwent at the hands of the unprofessional airline staff.
Following four years of ligation and inquiry, the Commission enhanced the compensation and finally ordered the airline to pay Ghumman Rs 1 lakh.
A similar incident occurred in 2017, when a woman and her two children were asked to deboard a Toronto-bound flight at the Delhi airport, despite their luggage being flown to Toronto.
This time, however, the unprofessional treatment was meted out by the Air Canada crew and that too, on flimsy grounds–as observed by the Redressal Commission.
While their original service provider had been Jet Airways, the Commission directed both parties (Air Canada and Jet Airways) to pay compensation of Rs 35 lakh, “for the mental agony, tension, harassment, misbehaviour, humiliation and hardships suffered by the complainants at the hands of crew staff of opposite parties (the airlines)..”
If you are wondering why Jet Airways was also penalised for the impolite behaviour of the Air Canada crew, the reason is the Code Sharing Arrangement between both airlines.
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Also known as Codeshare, the Code Sharing Arrangement is a business agreement between two airline services, under which passengers can use a single ticket for a connecting flight, even if there are two service providers.
Both the passengers were ‘bumped off’, a term coined by the aviation industry, which is sadly prevalent across the world. Such scenarios arise due to overbooking, a legal practice that allows airlines to issue more tickets than the number of seats available to prevent losses from no-show passengers.
As a passenger, what can you do if you are denied a flight with no valid or legitimate reasoning?
Well, thankfully, airlines are bound by DGCA regulations to compensate bumped passengers–from providing alternative arrangements, refund of fares, and/or monetary compensation–for the inconvenience caused.
Under the Civil Aviation Requirements (Section 3 Series M Part IV), if a passenger with a confirmed booking has reported for the flight within the specified time, but requires an additional seat than available, the legal course of action by airlines should be as follows.
- First of all, the cabin crew must ask for volunteers to give up their seats to make them available for other booked passengers. In exchange, the airline may offer such volunteer passengers benefits and facilities, at its discretion.
- However, in situations of inadequate volunteers, if passengers are denied boarding against their will, the compensation rules have to be taken into effect.
- This means that a bumped passenger is entitled to the refund of the air ticket cost or an alternative, comparable transportation arrangement. This amount has to be compensated by the airline/airlines unless foul play is on the passenger’s side.
- Furthermore, the passenger is to get an additional amount as financial compensation, which ranges between Rs 2,000 and Rs 4,000, depending on the block time. This period includes the total time from when an aircraft moves for taking off until it comes to rest at the end of the flight.
- This compensation entitlement is also applicable for bumped passengers on foreign flights flying to or from India.
These are the legal provisions in place by the DGCA. To avoid being bumped off, it is advisable to report for your flight well ahead of time. This would work well in your defence, leaving no leeway for opposite parties to point the blame on you.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)