Monday, February 19, 2018

Overbooking: Are Airlines Biting More Than They Can Chew?

In a video which went viral April last year, the world watched with horror the plight of an innocent passenger who was forcefully dragged out of a United Airlines aircraft on account of being ‘denied boarding’ by the airline. The incident brought into focus the policy of overbooking followed by airlines. Overbooking is the (mal)practice of airlines to book confirmed seats, more than the number of seats available on an aircraft. In such a case, although a passenger holdinga confirmed ticket has presented himself/herself for boarding within the time specified by the airline, he/she may be refused boarding on account of overbooking of confirmed seats....
In the 7-month period between August 2016 and February 2017, 12,957 passengers on domestic Indian flights were not allowed to board their flights – a 65.75% increase compared to the same period a year earlier.[1] This figure stood at 2,879 passengers, who were denied boarding in December 2017 alone.[2] Often airlines even close their check-in counters early in order to avoid reporting incidents of ‘denied boarding’. In the absence of regulation, airlines continue to overbook flights while the authorities turn a blind eye to the (mal)practice. Recently, the Delhi High Court in the matter of Pallav Mongia v. Union of India was called upon to consider whether the policy of ‘overbooking’ being followed by Airlines was legally permissible. The Government argued that that overbooking was a practice being followed by airlines internationally. It was also contended that the Government had issued its regulations under the Aircraft Act, 1934 and the Convention on International Civil Aviation, 1944 (‘Chicago Convention’).
18/02/18 Ashish Virmani/Live