In a move that will have far-reaching implicatons, aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has directed SpiceJet to refund the full fare of 170 Mumbai-Delhi flight passengers who were stranded for five hours in mid-June.
The DGCA has asked the airline why it charged the passengers for snacks and beverages even though the delay was not their fault.
The revised rules laid down by the DGCA in 2010 says airlines are supposed to provide compensation and other benefits to passengers, including food and beverages, in case of delays. The airlines will not be under any obligation in case the delay is on account of things that are beyond its control like political unrest, bad weather, air traffic control problem, or technical problem.
A spokesperson for the airline refused to divulge details. He said: "Spicejet, like most airlines, serves food on the ground during delays... we will soon respond to the DGCA."
According to DGCA officials, the Boeing 737 aircraft with 170 passengers faced technical snags on June 16, following which the plane returned to the bay area. After a five-hour delay, the passengers were flown in another aircraft. Apparently there were some engineering issues.
The SpiceJet spokesperson, however, denied it. "We have received no communication from DGCA regarding 'serious engineering issues'."
Consumer activists and aviation experts say though the rule has been in place for several years, most airlines avoid paying any compensation by declaring that delays are a result of technical issues.
Sudhakar Reddy, president, Air Passengers Association of India, said: "The DGCA ruling in SpiceJet is a welcome beginning." Reddy was a member of the committee that submitted a memorandum way back on 2010 to the civil aviation ministry based on which the amended rules for compensation in case of delays was formulated.