January 12, 2024: In the wake of dense fog conditions gripping cities like Delhi and Chandigarh, travelers have been grappling with numerous flight cancellations this week, disrupting the travel plans and onward journeys of many heading for vacations or business meetings. As videos circulate on social media, depicting frustrated passengers facing delays at airports nationwide, it becomes imperative to address the challenges posed by weather-related disruptions and explore viable solutions for affected travelers.
With the increased likelihood of weather-related issues, obtaining travel insurance emerges as a prudent choice. Airlines, unable to compensate customers for weather-related disruptions or other extraordinary circumstances classified as ‘Force Majeure,’ make securing travel insurance a crucial step for passengers.
Recognizing the impact on travelers, Air India recently introduced the ‘Fog Care’ initiative, allowing affected passengers to reschedule or cancel flights without incurring additional charges. This move aims to provide flexibility to travelers facing unforeseen disruptions due to weather conditions.
The Union Ministry of Civil Aviation has also urged airlines and operators to ensure fairness to passengers experiencing cancellations and delays, emphasizing adherence to Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) during a meeting with senior officials, including airline representatives. Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia highlighted the importance of strict compliance with flight cancellation, delay, and refund policies to address the concerns of affected passengers.
Government guidelines issued in December 2022 outline compensation for air passengers affected by cancellations and delays. While general guidelines exist, specific policies may vary among airlines. In the event of cancellation, airlines are obligated to provide an alternate flight or compensation, in addition to a full refund of air tickets. Passengers awaiting an alternate flight at the airport are entitled to meals and refreshments.
For flight delays, airlines must offer meals, refreshments, an alternate flight, a full ticket refund, or hotel accommodation (including transfers), depending on the duration of the delay. However, airlines are exempt from compensation obligations in cases where cancellations and delays result from force majeure events—extraordinary circumstances beyond their control.
Passenger entitlements typically include a full refund or a replacement flight if the delay exceeds six hours, with prior notification at least 24 hours before the scheduled departure time. Fog-related delays, however, may deviate from this timeframe. Additionally, if a flight scheduled between 8 PM and 3 AM experiences a delay exceeding six hours, airlines may, at their discretion, provide complimentary hotel accommodation, especially in weather-related events.
In navigating fog-induced flight disruptions, passengers are encouraged to stay informed about their rights, consider travel insurance, and leverage initiatives like ‘Fog Care’ to mitigate the impact of unexpected cancellations and delays. As the aviation sector continues to adapt to weather challenges, understanding compensation policies becomes crucial for a smoother travel experience.