Flight delayed or cancelled? Will you get a refund? Know what your rights as a flyer are

Flight cancellations and delays – an annual winter affair in several parts of India, especially the North – have come back to haunt passengers. Dense fog and the resulting low visibility in and around several airports, especially Delhi, have led to early-morning flight delays and cancellations.

It was a chaotic Monday at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International (IGI) airport, with over 100 flights delayed and five diverted.

The scene was no different on Sunday. At Bengaluru’s Kempegowda International Airport, 58 flights were delayed and eight were cancelled due to bad weather. Passengers also had to endure long delays at Patna and Mumbai airports due to low visibility.

flight delays

The delays have resulted in minor scuffles and even calls to sue a particular airline. On Monday, a video emerged showing a passenger hitting a pilot of a Delhi-Goa IndiGo flight when he was making an announcement regarding a delay in takeoff, likely on Sunday.

Social media have been flooded with visuals of passengers in heated arguments with ground staff and officials of airlines. The chaotic situation has also been highlighted by several actors and politicians, such as Radhika Apte, Sonu Sood and Shiv Sena (UBT) leader Priyanka Chaturvedi.

But, what can a passenger do in cases of flight delays and cancellations? What are their rights, and what should be done by airlines in such cases?

The aviation regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has laid down specific rules to deal with such cases.


As per the DGCA, carriers have to provide meals for passengers in case of flight delays. However, it depends on the ‘block time’ of each flight. Block time, as per aviation parlance, means the duration of the flight.

Passengers have to be provided refreshments if:

  • A flight, which has a duration of two-and-a-half hours, is delayed by two hours.
  • A flight, whose duration is between two-and-a-half hours and five hours, is delayed by three hours.
  • If a flight is delayed by four hours and beyond.

However, if the flight is delayed by more than six hours, the DGCA mandates the airline to alert the passenger 24 hours before the departure time. In this case, the passenger has the option of seeking a full refund or a seat on an alternative flight.

Secondly, if the flight is delayed for over six hours, and it is scheduled to depart between 8 pm and 3 am, the passenger has to be provided free accommodation. This is also applicable if the flight is delayed for more than 24 hours.

flight delays


The plans of several passengers have gone haywire as several flights have been cancelled in the past few weeks, coinciding with the holiday season.

If a flight gets cancelled, then the airline has to inform the passenger less than two weeks, but atleast 24 hours before the scheduled departure time. The passenger can then ask for a seat on an alternate flight or seek a full refund from the airline.

However, if the airline fails to inform the passenger at least 24 hours before the scheduled departure time, then it has to pay compensation of Rs 5,000, Rs 7,500, Rs 10,000 based on the duration of the flight.

The same rule applies if a passenger misses a connecting flight booked on the same ticket number because of the cancellation of the first flight.


Airlines are not liable to provide compensation to passengers on account of cancellations and delays due to extraordinary circumstances such as natural disasters, civil wars, political instability, security risks, strikes and labour disputes, and meteorological conditions.

Cancellations and delays due to Air Traffic Control (ATC) or slowdown or interruption of work that are beyond the control of the airline also do not qualify for compensation.

However, loopholes remain and reasons like delay due to Air Traffic Control are not well-defined, leaving room for exploitation.

In normal circumstances, DGCA rules mandate the airline to refund the amount within seven days in case of card payments.

If the ticket is purchased through travel agents or any third-party website, the onus of a refund will lie with the airlines. In this case, the refund has to be processed within 30 working days.

Also, the refund amount cannot be credited into the “credit shell” of wallet of the airline by default, and it will be the decision of the passenger.

It must be noted that passengers need to claim refunds within a month of the incident taking place.


An airline may resort to overbooking to reduce the possibility of unoccupied seats. In these cases, some passengers are denied boarding.

However, there are rules to protect the interest of the passengers in such cases as well.

In such cases, the aggrieved passenger has to be put on an alternate flight that is scheduled to leave within an hour of the original flight that he/she had booked. If the airline fails to do so, the passenger is liable for compensation.

The passenger has to be paid Rs 10,000 by the airline if the alternative flight is arranged within 24 hours of the original flight’s departure time. If the airline fails to put the passenger on an alternative flight beyond 24 hours, an amount up to Rs 20,000 has to be paid as compensation.

Published By:

Abhishek De

Published On:

Jan 15, 2024

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