U.S. hits Air India with $80K fine

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood. File photo  

As if Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh’s announcement on Thursday that India’s financially beleaguered national carrier Air India had incurred a Rs. 5,548.26 crore loss during 2008-09 was not enough, the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) on Friday pushed the airline’s prospects into bleaker territory still as it assessed a civil penalty of $80,000 against it.

Citing Air India’s failure to post customer service and tarmac delay contingency plans on its website as well as failing to adequately inform passengers about its optional fees, the U.S. DOT made an example out of India’s struggling national airline. Air India is the first entity facing a penalty assessed for a violation of the DOT’s new airline consumer rules that took effect August 23 last year.

The move could potentially embarrass India and U.S. leaders meeting in Washington next month for the third round of the bilateral Strategic Dialogue. Amidst a growing list of disappointments in the relationship on the economic and strategic fronts, including the MMRCA fighter deal that the U.S. lost out on, the nuclear liability bill that has stalled the landmark civil nuclear agreement and tensions over Iranian oil imports, this not-insignificant fine could well make further progress in advancing cooperation laborious.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood however struck a firm note focussed on the letter of the law when he said, “Our new airline consumer rules help ensure that passengers are fully informed about airline services and fees and what to expect if their flight is delayed on the tarmac... We will continue to monitor carriers to make sure they comply with our rules and take enforcement action when they do not.”

The DoT clarified that since last August foreign carriers operating flights to and from the U.S. with at least one aircraft of 30 or more seats were required to adopt contingency plans for lengthy tarmac delays as well as customer service plans, and to post these plans on their websites.

In a statement the DOT said that in addition, also beginning last August, U.S. and foreign carriers with a website selling tickets to U.S. consumers were required to include on their homepages a prominent hyperlink that takes viewers directly to a page that shows all fees for optional services the carrier charges, including baggage fees.

“Air India failed to post its customer service and tarmac delay contingency plans and to provide a link to its optional fees by the required date,” the DOT complained in a formal statement.

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Printable version | Apr 22, 2021 4:15:21 PM |

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