Pakistan has three airlines operating domestic routes that include Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), Shaheen Air International and Air Blue. All of these airlines are below par in service, and only PIA has a decent fleet rest just offer a scary ride. These airline companies provide more or less the same kind and amount of services, the primary focus, remains on the amount of money a customer has to pay for his airline ticket. Whether this approach should be attributed to a narrow business perspective is anybody’s guess.
In Pakistan, air travelers do not get their fundamental rights as passengers because Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) do not implement rules neither do they try to educate the public at large. This predicament has already begun to create great dissatisfaction among many air travelers.
There are several reports of passengers being offloaded, flights getting canceled without any prior notice and customers waiting in line for hours to collect their boarding pass. These incidents regularly make headlines adding fuel to the fire.
Fortunately for frequent air travelers, justice has now been served. After receiving a number of complaints from passengers against the treatment meted out to them by Commercial Air Operators, the CAA, under Rule 180 of CARs-1994, decided to lay down several rules and regulations that aimed at safeguarding the rights of air passengers during travel. The organisation felt this was a necessary measure as not only will the rights of air travelers be fulfilled but airline companies will also be able to operate harmoniously in an otherwise liberalized market.
To ensure that air passengers are provided their due (and that there are no loopholes that can be taken advantage of), the CAA has determined that all carriers, whether deciding to perform a flight using its own aircraft or under the dry/wet lease will have to abide by these rules. The scheduled and non-scheduled flights including charters and even those providing package tours fall into the same category.
Some of the rules detailing the document include the following:
1. Air carriers are required to call for volunteers to surrender their reservations for passengers who were denied boarding. Those volunteers could either be offered a package of benefits or simply be reimbursed the amount spent on tickets and have another flight booked for another date.
2. To reduce the major inconvenience suffered by passengers as a result of flights getting canceled, air carriers are required to inform customers well before the scheduled time of the flight and, also, offer an alternative flight. In the case of no alternate flight available, the passengers should be reimbursed the amount paid for the tickets.
3. Air carriers are also required to care for the needs of physically and mentally disabled persons as well as for the people accompanying them and ensure that their flight be as smooth as possible.
4. It is the duty of the air carrier to inform passengers of their rights in the event of a flight cancelation, denied boarding or even a delay in flight. The information is to be included in ticketing documents as well as on the airline’s website.
5. Of course, these rules and regulations are limited or excluded in the event of any extraordinary circumstance that may affect the state of air travel on that particular day. These include political instability, freak climatic conditions, security risks among others.
The implementation of such rules underscores the commitment of the CAA towards ensuring the satisfaction of air passengers as well as air carriers. Whether these will be put into daily practice is what remains to be seen.