Passengers on Indian flights to receive more protection

14 May 2009

From June 30, travellers can expect higher compensation for lost luggage as well as death and injury when flying on international flights into and out of India.

Under the new regulations approved by the Indian parliament, affected passengers are entitled to 100,000 special drawing rights (SDRs), about Rs32.5 lakhs (US$66,500). Currently, carriers pay Rs7.5 lakh (US$15,146) for deaths in international flights.

SDR is a basket of global currencies created by the International Monetary Fund. One SDR is equivalent to over US$0.665.

For delay, loss or destruction of baggage, airlines have to pay 1,000 SDRs or Rs32,500 (US$665) per passenger. The ceiling of compensation for passenger delay is now 4,150 SDR or about US$2,760 (Rs1.35 lakh).

These compensation fees will apply to the international operations of Kingfisher, Jet Airways and Air India, as well as to other international airlines flying in and out of the Sub-Continent.

India’s new rules on carriers’ liabilities follows the country’s ratification earlier this month of the Montreal Convention of 1999 that seeks to impose uniformity and predictability of rules on the international carriage of passengers, baggage and cargo.

In order to ratify the Montreal treaty, the Indian parliament recently passed an amendment to the country’s Carriage by the Air Act 1972.

“As long as India had not acceded to the Montreal Convention, Indian and foreign airlines had the right to pay lower compensation rates, which they could decide. Now, they have to pay the full rate,” an Indian aviation official told local media.

Meanwhile, the amended law provides international air travellers to and from India the benefits of the “fifth jurisdiction”. This means a passenger can claim damages for personal injury or death in the country where he or she resides or in any other country where the airline provides its services.

Before the Montreal Convention, passengers or their legal heirs had four choices of country for filing claims under the older Warsaw System. These were: the place where the ticket was issued, the airline’s principal place of business, the passenger’s destination and the carrier’s place of domicile.

Local aviation officials said as long as India did not sign the convention, serious discrimination was possible between passengers of the same flight where compensation was concerned.

Gigi Onag

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