In a recent development, the Central government has voiced concerns over the airline industry and online travel aggregators engaging in what it deems unfair trade practices. These practices have been a source of mounting frustration for consumers and have caught the attention of the Union Consumer Affairs Ministry.
These practices include:
- Labelling every seat of flights as “paid” despite claiming to offer “free mandatory web check-in.”
- Denying boarding to passengers despite having confirmed tickets.
- Delaying refunds.
Dubious Labeling of ‘Paid’ Seats Despite Promised ‘Free Mandatory Web Check-In’
One of the major issues brought to light is the misleading labelling of flight seats. Many airlines and travel aggregators have been consistently designating every seat as ‘paid’ despite promoting the availability of ‘free mandatory web check-in.’ This discrepancy has led to confusion and dissatisfaction among passengers.
Passenger Complaints: Denied Boarding and Delayed Refunds
The Union Consumer Affairs Ministry has also drawn attention to two other pressing concerns raised by passengers. Firstly, there have been numerous complaints of passengers being denied boarding even with confirmed tickets in hand. This issue has not only caused inconvenience but has also left passengers frustrated and out of pocket.
Secondly, consumers have reported significant delays in receiving refunds for cancelled flights, adding to their woes.
‘Dark Patterns’ and Manipulation of Consumer Decisions
Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh, in his statement to the Times of India, has shed light on the deliberate tactics used by airlines. Singh mentioned that airlines have been structuring their website interfaces in ways that undermine consumer autonomy, essentially manipulating their decision-making. This strategy is referred to as ‘dark pattern.’
Passengers Raise Complaints on Air Seva Website
Passengers have been raising complaints on the dedicated Air Seva website. Nearly 10,000 such complaints were received last year, and the government has so far struggled to compel airlines to address them comprehensively.
High Number of Grievances Indicate Airlines’ Ineffectiveness in Addressing Them
Consumer Affairs Secretary Rohit Kumar Singh noted that such a high number of grievances indicates airlines’ ineffectiveness in addressing them.
The government has warned airlines and OTAs to stop engaging in unfair trade practices. Failure to comply could lead to action under the Consumer Protection Act.
In conclusion, the government’s scrutiny of unfair practices by airlines and travel aggregators aims to protect the interests of consumers and ensure a fair and transparent travel experience. With these concerns raised at the highest level, the aviation industry is now under increased pressure to address these issues and provide passengers with the service they deserve.