AVIATION / CONSUMER PROTECTION
New rules improve passengers' rights on local flights
Airlines operating in Thailand are facing stringent new legal requirements that make them more accountable to passengers in cases of flight delays, cancellations and boarding denials.
Effective this month, passengers on scheduled domestic routes are entitled to ticket refunds and compensation under rules set by the Transport Ministry.
Modelled European Union (EU) rules, the regulations promise to make it fair and transparent for passengers in terms of what they can legally expect in events that affect reserved air travel.
The rules also include clear guidelines on how airlines are expected to treat passengers and avoid disputes that often are raised through the media and the Consumer Protection Board.
Notably, they will make low-cost carriers more accountable for on-time performance and better passenger treatment in case of delays, cancellations and denied boarding.
Chaisak Angkasuwan, director-general of the Department of Civil Aviation (DCA), called the requirements practical and acceptable to airlines, saying they did not go to the extremes seen in the EU.
''It is fair for both passengers and the service providers,'' he said, adding that the DCA was prepared to amend the requirements if needed in the future.
The regulations are similar to what international airlines provide passengers when flights are affected. The terms of compensation for domestic services vary depending on the extent and cases.
If a passenger has booked, paid and checked in at the time specified, but is denied boarding for no good reason, he or she is entitled to a full refund of the ticket price, compensation of 1,200 baht per sector, or 600 baht if the airline can board the passenger in less than three hours from the original departure time.
Carriers must also provide appropriate free food and drinks to passengers waiting for new flights, and allow them to use phones, fax or e-mail twice at no cost.
If a flight is delayed by more than one day, airlines must provide lodging and airport transfers without charge.
But airlines reserve the rights not to offer compensation in cases associated with health, aviation security, air safety and incomplete travel documents.
Similarly, passengers can claim a full ticket refund, compensation of 1,200 baht per leg if the flight is cancelled or delayed more than three hours, and/or 600 baht compensation if the airline can board the passenger less than three hours behind schedule.
But there are exceptions if the airline has informed the passengers of the delay at least three days in prior to the departure, and the cause is not due to a political situation, weather conditions, security or industrial action by third-party aviation service providers.
Passengers also have the right to ask the carrier to provide the soonest replacement flight with no additional cost, or to pay the difference if the replacement fare is cheaper.
If a flight is delayed for more than three hours, passengers can seek ticket refunds, change the flight or choose other modes of transport to arrive at their destination at or near the time specified in the original tickets without additional charges.