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India: DGCA says airlines to pay passengers that gets denied seats because of overbooking

The Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has ruled that carriers that deny boarding to a passenger that owns a confirmed ticket because of overbooking are liable to compensate for deficiency of service.

The DGCA along with national flag carrier, Air India, made it clear to a Delhi High Court that a passenger holds the right to ask for compensation in case of denial because of overbooking, above and beyond rules that provide slab-wise refunds.

The response came on a petition that was filed by an attorney that was inquiring about the 2010 DGCA regulations that recognizes the concept of overbooking by airlines.

“A plain reading of paragraph 3.2 indicates that the DGCA has recognized that certain airlines follow the practice of over-booking 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,” said Justice Vibhu Bakhru while disposing the petition that was forwarded by Pallav Mongia, through advocate Ashish Virmani, which dared to challenge the DGCA rules.

The High Court was clearly satisfied with the stance of DGCA and Air India that a passenger distressed by the move of an airline in denying him or her boarding can go to civil and consumer courts to ask for damages, apart from the minimum damages prescribed under the DGCA regulations.

DGCA also said that its 2010 regulations did not place a cap on the compensation that can be commanded from the airline in such cases.

The court recorded DGCA’s position that the rules that it set are meant to “ensure that the passengers who are denied boarding are paid immediate compensation and necessary arrangements for their travel are made by the airline concerned. This did not mean that the DGCA had permitted the airlines to adopt the said practices and the petitioner’s right to claim compensation/damages was not restricted.”

Back in 2015, Mongia was denied boarding by Air India in spite of the fact that he already had a confirmed ticket.

Upon finding out that airlines had cited the DGCA regulations while defending its prior call to not allow him to fly, he challenged the rule before the High Court.

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