Delhi

‘Practice of airlines to overbook does not have sanction of law’

Airlines commonly overbook scheduled flights to reduce the possibility of planes departing with unoccupied seats as many a times passengers with confirmed bookings do not report for travel.   | Photo Credit: S. Subramanium

The Delhi High Court has remarked that the practice of airlines to ‘overbook’ flights, though recognised by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), cannot mean it has “the sanction of law”.

A clause in the Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) issued by the DGCA lays down procedure to be followed if airlines deny boarding to passengers with confirmed booking due to overbooking of seats.

Airlines commonly overbook scheduled flights to reduce the possibility of planes departing with unoccupied seats as many a times passengers with confirmed bookings do not report for travel.

As per GCA data, 2,879 passengers were denied boarding by various domestic airlines in December last year.

Advocate’s plea

Justice Vibhu Bakhru said, “A plain reading of paragraph 3.2 [of CAR] indicates that the DGCA has recognised that certain airlines follow the practice of overbooking flights. However, the same cannot be read to mean that the DGCA has permitted the airlines to do so.”

“And it certainly cannot mean that such practice has the sanction of law,” the judge remarked.

The court’s remark came on the plea of advocate Pallav Mongia, who was denied boarding by Air India on account of overbooking of the flight. Mr. Mongia challenged the clause in the CAR, which permits overbooking of flights.

Mr. Mongia claimed that he was scheduled to travel from Delhi to Patna on December 12, 2015, and had booked tickets with Air India well in advance. However, he was denied boarding despite having confirmed tickets.

He contended that the compensation payable to passengers who are denied boarding despite holding confirmed bookings has been restricted by the CAR.

The DGCA’s counsel said the CAR did not restrict the passengers from taking any action to recover further compensation as available in law.

He argued that the CAR was issued to ensure that passengers who are denied boarding are paid with immediate compensation and necessary arrangements for their travel are made by the airline concerned.

The counsel also clarified that this did not mean that DGCA had permitted the airlines to adopt the said practices.

Referring to the various decisions of consumer courts granting compensation to passengers in such cases, Air India’s counsel said passengers have the right to seek compensation or damages for such deficiency in service.

“In view of the above stand of the DGCA, it is not necessary to examine the question whether the DGCA has the jurisdiction to issue the impugned CAR,” the court said closing the petition.

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Printable version | Dec 6, 2020 4:49:38 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/Delhi/practice-of-airlines-to-overbook-does-not-have-sanction-of-law/article22725127.ece

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