Delhi High Court issues notice to Jet Airways on plea for refund and alternative flights to passengers

The High Court has also asked the Centre and the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation to respond to the plea by next date of hearing on July 16.
The Delhi High Court on May 1 issued notice to Jet Airways on a plea seeking refund or alternative mode of travel to passengers who had booked tickets with the airways which has shut all domestic and international flights.

The High Court additionally asked the Centre and the Directorate-General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to also respond to the plea by next date of hearing on July 16.

Activist Bejon Kumar Misra, in his application, said the sudden suspension of all flights of Jet Airways has resulted in a major crisis for the passengers who were not informed about it earlier.

The plea has sought direction to the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the DGCA to adopt prompt redress mechanism for all affected passengers to access full refund of air tickets with reasonable compensation or arrange alternative mode of travel for them to reach their destination.

“It is common knowledge that all competitor airlines have exorbitantly increased their airfares and the toothless and vulnerable consumers are constrained to suffer not only in terms of money, but also in terms of mental harassment of unprecedented scale,” the plea said.

“The passengers have to not only purchase alternative tickets at highly exorbitant cost, but also go through lots of anxieties and mental agony. This has resulted in profiteering by other airlines at the cost of the passengers and till date no relief has been announced by the respondents [Centre and DGCA],” it added.

“There is a complete chaotic aviation crisis looming over the country where the consumers/passengers are victim on account of absence of any robust and effective regulator in the aviation sector in India to regulate the functioning of the airlines in a fair and ethical manner in order to monitor and regulate airfares,” the plea said.

“It is submitted that as per the report available in the public domain, approximately more than ₹360 crore of the passengers/consumers hard earned money are under threat due to non-refund of the ticket value,” it said.

DGCA moves NGT, says impossible to dump poop mid-air

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has moved the National Green Tribunal seeking a stay and review of its order directing the aviation regulator to issue a circular to all airlines operating at IGI Airport here to ensure that they do not empty toilet tanks mid-air.

The DGCA has now moved a plea seeking review and stay of the December 20, 2016 and the January 10 order of the tribunal claiming that it was impossible to dump human waste mid-air from aircraft toilet.

A bench headed by Justice Raghuvendra Singh Rathore issued notices to the original petitioner Lt Gen (Retd) Satwant Singh Dahiya and others while seeking their replies by May 23.

Dahiya had moved the NGT alleging that faeces were splattered from aircraft on his South Delhi house before Diwali in 2016 after which the tribunal on December 20, 2016 had directed the DGCA to issue a circular to all airlines to pay Rs 50,000 as environmental compensation if their planes are found dumping waste mid air.

The petition has referred to the findings of the expert committee, constituted by NGT, and said there is no switch or system available in the aircraft to dispose waste in flight.

“The aircraft system has three level of in-built external protection for disposing the waste and under no circumstance release of waste during flight is possible and there has been no such resort ever by the operators.

“The modern day airline toilets are sealed and cannot be emptied in flight and toilet waste can only be disposed of by manual operation on ground during its servicing,” the plea said.

The tribunal had earlier constituted committee comprising representatives from the DGCA, Central Avian Research Institute and CPCB to collect samples from the house of Dahiya.

The committee members were directed to send the samples for tests to ascertain whether it was human or bird excreta.

The NGT had earlier directed the CPCB to take a clear stand whether it can differentiate between human excreta and bird poop.

Aviation regulator DGCA had maintained that it was impossible to dump human waste mid-air from aircraft toilet, and bird droppings had landed on the complainant’s house, after which the green panel had ordered testing of the excreta samples.

The CPCB had said that there were traces of faecal coliform in the samples, indicating presence of human waste.

The tribunal had in 2016 held that if “any aircraft, airlines and the handling services of registered aircraft” were found to be dumping human waste from air or toilet tanks were found to have been emptied before landing, they shall be subjected to environmental compensation of Rs 50,000 per case of default.

The NGT had also asked the DGCA to carry out surprise inspection of aircraft landing at the airport to check that their toilet tanks are not empty while landing and prevent waste from being splashed over residential areas and any other place before landing.

High Court raps DGCA for changing stipulated flight duty time limitations

Concerned over fatigued pilots and cabin crew posing a risk to passenger safety, the Delhi High Court today took to task aviation regulator DGCA for allowing airlines to change stipulated flight and duty time limitations (FDTLs).

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) was going against its own Aircraft Rules by allowing such changes and questioned its power to do so.

“We cannot have regulations which go beyond the rules in order to cater to the market requirements of airlines. It is manifestly illegal and a threat to passenger safety. You have no power to permit variations (of FDTLs),” the court told the DGCA and added that if it wanted the power, it would have to get the Aircraft Act and Rules amended.

“You cannot undo what the legislature has consciously done,” the court said.

The bench said that the “prime requirement” was passenger safety and not whether pilots have complained.

The court said that lack of complaints by pilots or accidents were “not the answer” and asked the regulator how many times it carried out risk assessments regarding pilot fatigue before permitting the variations.

It also asked, “Why fix standards of maximum flying time and minimum rest period when you are going to vary them.”

The observations came after the DGCA said variations were being permitted as there have been no accidents because of that and also no pilot has complained of fatigue till date.

The court asked the regulator that if people die because it did not do its duty, then what it has done would amount to murder as was allegedly stated by the petitioner, Kerala-based lawyer Yashwanth Shenoy, in his emails to the DGCA.

The bench directed the regulator to disclose the number of changes it has permitted post amendment of the Aircraft Rules in 2016 when its power to make variations to FDTLs was taken away.

It also ordered the regulator to produce its original records of the requests received from the different airlines as well as a tabulation of the exemptions or variations that were granted before the amendment and were still in force.

The bench further directed the DGCA to state on affidavit that it has not granted any exemptions or variations after the 2016 amendment to the Aircraft Rules.

With the direction, the court listed the PIL, which raises issues of pilot and air crew fatigue, obstacles around the Indira Gandhi International Airport and passenger safety, for further hearing on April 18.

According to Shenoy, the maximum flying time is around 125 hours per week and this gets varied according to the requirements of an airline, each of which has a different FDTLs.

During the hearing, the bench on a lighter note said, “He (Shenoy) is right. If we hear the matter, we will stop flying.”

Earlier, the Delhi International Airport Ltd (DIAL), which operates the IGI, had told the court that there were 365 obstacles around the aviation hub that may pose a threat to aircraft safety.

Shenoy, in his plea, has recalled what set him off on this path was the 2010 Mangalore air crash. On May 22 that year, Air India Express Flight 812 from Dubai to Mangalore overshot the runway on landing after which it caught fire, the plea has said. Of the 160 passengers and six crew members on board, only eight had survived.

He has claimed that the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security, the Central lndustrial Security Force and the Delhi Police have not taken airport security seriously and buildings and hotels around the airport were operating without complying with the conditions imposed.

High Court asks Air India to release salary of grounded pilot

The Delhi High Court today directed national carrier Air India to release the salary of a pilot, who was grounded in 2016 after being allegedly tested positive for alcohol consumption before and after flights on two occasions.

Justice Rajiv Shakdher asked the airline why it had withdrawn the full salary of the pilot and how could he sustain in such circumstances.

“Why no part of his salary has been paid since January 2017. You cannot withdraw the full salary. He has to have something to sustain. Release it,” the judge told Air India.

The pilot’s flying licence was taken away but he has not been terminated from services yet and was still an employee of the airline, his counsel said.

The court issued notice to the airline and the Director General Civil Aviation (DGCA), seeking their responses by May 15, the next date of hearing.

It was hearing a petition filed by an Air India captain, whose flying licence was taken away in August 2016, seeking release of his salary which was allegedly not given to him since January 2017.

During the hearing, the judge asked the DGCA why neither the flying allowance, nor his basic salary was being given to the pilot.

To this, the counsel for DGCA said the pilot was not being allowed to fly and hence, no allowance could be given in that regard. The issue of releasing his salary was to be decided by the airline and not by the DGCA, she added.

The court then asked the DGCA to file a counter affidavit before the next date of hearing on May 15.

“Petitioner is not being paid salary from January 2017. Besides non payment of flying allowance, the petitioner has also alleged that procedure for carrying out breath analyser tests (BA Test) have also not been adhered to. He said between two tests, a controlled test has to be conducted, which was not done. It is submitted that controlled test was carried out after the second BA test,” the judge said.

The high court was informed that the petitioner was subjected to BA test during pre-flight check at Chennai in June 2015 and the second time a post-flight test was conducted on him in Calicut on August 10, 2016.

The counsel for the pilot submitted that he was suspended for three months on charges of alcohol consumption, adding that an FIR was filed against him on August 26, 2016, but the police, after the probe, had filed a closure report on April 6, 2017 exonerating him of the charges.

During the hearing, the counsel appearing for Air India said instructions were needed from the airline on the issue of release of salary to the pilot.

“Issue notice to Air India, DGCA. Rejoinder be filed in three weeks. Air India to seek instructions. List on May 15,” the judge said.

Pratt and Whitney snag: DGCA assures Bombay High Court of precautions in the wake of certain A320 neo planes.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) today told the Bombay High Court that it was taking all necessary precautions in the wake of certain A320 neo planes, powered by Pratt & Whitney engines, being grounded due to engine failures.

Hearing a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by Mumbai resident Harish Agarwal, a division bench of Justices N H Patil and G S Kulkarni noted the air safety was of utmost importance.

The bench also said the Union government and the DGCA are duty-bound to ensure that full safety measures are taken.

The petitioner had sought appropriate directions to Cvil Aviation authorities over the recent reports that certain A320 neo planes fitted with Pratt & Whitney (PW) engines are more susceptible to engine failures.

In an affidavit filed today, the DGCA said PW engines are safe and airworthy.

“Even if there are problems in the pre-450 series of the PW engines, that does not mean that the aircraft is unsafe or not air worthy. Timely inspection and maintenance would ensure that the engines do not develop any snag,” it said.

The bench said if DGCA experts felt that all measures have been taken then the petition could be disposed of, and posted the matter for hearing on April 16.

“At the end, air safety is of utmost importance. It is everyone’s concern. Take full safety measures to ensure this,” said Justice Patil.

The petitioner had claimed that the European Air Safety Authority (EASA) had issued an airworthiness directive for A320 neo planes fitted with PW1100 engines having a particular serial number, in February this year.

As per the directive, PW1100 engines are classified into two types or series of serial numbers — 449, and 450 and beyond, it stated.

EASA ruled that engines having the serial numbers 450 and beyond had combustion and other safety problems, it said.

“The agency stated that across the world, all A320 neo aircraft with both engines having 450 or beyond serial numbers, should be grounded, while those with only one 450 and beyond could continue to fly,” as per the petition.

As planes of Indigo and GoAir were grounded due to PW snag, the HC, during the last hearing, had directed them to clear their stand before it.

Senior counsel Janak Dwarkadas, appearing for Indigo Airlines, today told the high court that out of the nine Indigo aircraft grounded, engines of six aircraft have been replaced and they are now flying. “Only three remain grounded,” he said.

GoAir counsel Venkatesh Dhond told the court that out of the three aircraft grounded, engines of two aircrafts have been replaced.

Petitioner’s lawyer Aniruddha Deo, however, told the HC that damage to the said PW engines was caused internally and not externally.

Assure safety of P&W engines: Bombay High Court to DGCA

The Bombay High Court on Friday asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to list the steps being taken since 2007 to check the airworthiness of all Pratt & Whitney 1100 engines that power Airbus A320 New Engine Option (Neo) planes.

A Division Bench of Justices Naresh Patil and Justice G.S. Kulkarni was hearing a public interest litigation filed by Harish Agrawal, a businessman from Juhu.

The plea stated that A320 Neo aircraft fitted with P&W engines, manufactured by an American company, are malfunctioning and no action has been taken by DGCA against Indigo and Go Air Airlines who continue to fly such aircraft.

The European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) has issued an Emergency Airworthiness Directive for the A320 Neo on February 9, 2018. According to directive, an investigation was carried out to find out the cause of several occurrences of engine in-flight shut-down and rejected take-off in the Airbus A320 Neo aeroplanes.

PW1100 engines are classified into two types or series of numbers: 449, and 450 and beyond. In February, EASA ruled that engines having serial numbers 450 and beyond had combustion and other safety problems and those with only one 450 and beyond engine could continue to fly.

Advocate Advait Sethna, appearing for DGCA, said aircraft with even one 450 and beyond PW1100 engine were being grounded and seven IndiGo and two GoAir airplanes with one or both engines belonging to the specific serial number and had also been grounded.

The court said merely grounding some aircraft or following the directive of the EASA against the use of P&W 1100 engines belonging to the 450 and beyond series, was not enough.

The Bench said, “Your [DGCA] duty does not end merely at grounding some flights, but ensure that the people of India feel safe.”

Mr. Sethna also said that the DGCA has received a certification from P&W that all pre-450 series engines met safety standards. The court said, “Are you merely relying upon the directive and certification issued by the EASA, or, have you conducted your own study to ensure that all engines, even those that have not been flagged by the EASA, are absolutely safe?”

The bench also said it was the duty of the Union government and the DGCA to ensure that all aircraft were safe for travel and passengers were assured of their safety. The court went on to say, “All steps being taken to ensure that the flagged engines are not being used and that air travel was perfectly safe must be widely publicised and suggested a window should be opened to address all queries of the passengers and pacify their fears.”

Delhi High Court asks DGCA to file affidavit on airworthiness of A320 Neos

The Delhi High Court today directed the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to file an affidavit as required under the Aircraft Rules on the safety and airworthiness of the A320 Neo planes flying in India.

A bench of Acting Chief Justice Gita Mittal and Justice C Hari Shankar said the affidavit would be signed by an officer not below the rank of joint director of the DGCA and listed the matter for further hearing on April 6.

The order by the bench came after the petitioner, Yashwant Shenoy, told the court that there have been 100 engine failures in connection with the A 320 Neos. These planes are not allowed in US and European airspace in accordance with EASA (European Aviation Safety Agency) directives, he claimed.

On March 16, the court had refused to grant Shenoy’s main prayer to ground all the A320 Neo aircraft, which are operated by low cost carriers Indigo and GoAir.

Today, it said his petition be treated as an application and issued notice to the DGCA seeking its affidavit according to the Aircraft Rules.

While issuing the direction, the bench observed that it was a matter of public knowledge that several A320 Neos were grounded, one as recent as March 18.

“Let DGCA say they are safe,” the court said.

DGCA told the court that there were engine failure problems in the modified A320 Neos, which numbered 14 and were grounded.

The remaining were not modified and therefore a conscious decision was taken to not ground them.

 The Directorate General of Civil Aviation fix notice period, we only lay down guidelines : Delhi High Court

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has told the Delhi High Court that it has not fixed the notice period for pilots but has just laid down the guidelines under the Civil Aviation Requirements (CARs) , and the power to decide the duration has been left with the airlines.

The aviation regulator told the court that the CARs (or rules) on the notice period were issued after airlines approached it expressing concern over any sudden efflux of pilots. The airlines also claimed they spend considerable time and effort in training them.

The lawyer representing the DGCA told Justice Rajiv Shakdher the regulator does not cancel the licence of a pilot for violation of the CARs on notice period, and instead the airlines decide (on cancellation) according to the contract they have with the pilot concerned.

“How can airlines be given the power (of cancellation of licence)?” the court asked and listed the matter for further hearing on May 16.

The court was hearing pleas moved by several pilots’ associations challenging the CARs of 2009 and 2017 issued by the DGCA on notice period to be served by commander pilots and co-pilots.

Under the CARs of 2009, the notice period was increased to six months from the earlier three months, which is the international practice, the pilots associations have said.

While the CARs of 2009 were under challenge in the high court, the 2017 CARs were issued which increased the notice period to be served by the commander pilots to one year. However, the notice period to be served by co-pilots was not changed.

The associations, including the Society for Welfare of Indian Pilots, Indian Pilots Guild and Federation of Indian Pilots, have contended that violation of the CARs has legal consequences — the cancellation of their licence.

They have also contended that notice periods are a matter of contract between the airline and the pilot.

Under the CARs of 2017, the notice period may be reduced if the airline provides a no-objection certificate to a pilot and accepts his resignation earlier than the period stipulated in the amended rules.

HC frowns upon AAI, DGCA over safety issues

HC frowns upon AAI, DGCA over safety issues
HC frowns upon AAI, DGCA over safety issues

“It seems that passenger safety is of no priority to you,” the Bombay High Court’s told Airports Authority of India (AAI) and Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) as it rapped them for failing to ensure safety of air passengers and those living around airports.

A division bench of justices V M Kanade and M S Sonak directed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to initiate demolition of a private residential building near the international airport here over height regulation violations.

The court also directed the civic body to register FIR against the developer of the project within 48 hours.

The court, which was hearing two PILs on the issue of highrises coming up around the airport, issued notices to the Director General of DGCA and Chairperson of AAI.

According to the petition, one building has been constructed very close to the boundary wall of the international airport and overlooks the runway. While the DGCA had permitted construction up to 19 metres, the said building is 34 metres high.

The high court also asked AAI and DGCA to conduct an immediate internal inquiry into the action taken in the past one year over navigation issues faced by aircraft due to unauthorised construction.

“You are waiting for accidents to happen. You can never take preventive action. Look at what happened in Mahad. The state has woken up only now to the need to survey all old bridges. It seems that passenger safety is of no priority to you,” the bench said.

The court has posted the petitions for hearing after two weeks.

(Source : PTI)

How is Rs 100/kg for excess baggage okay: asks HC

How is Rs 100/kg for excess baggage okay: asks HC
How is Rs 100/kg for excess baggage okay: asks HC

Delhi High Court today asked aviation regulator DGCA how the figure of Rs 100 per kg for checked-in excess baggage between 15-20 kgs was reasonable as was contended by it.

“You have not said what is the basis for the figure of Rs 100 per kg,” Justice Sanjeev Sachdeva asked.

“How do you call it reasonable? Why not Rs 75 or Rs 150,” the judge asked after Additional Solicitor General (ASG) P S Patwalia, appearing for DGCA and the Ministry of Civil Aviation, said the Rs 100 figure was chosen as it was “reasonable”.

ASG Patwalia, in response to the queries, also said the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), as an expert body, was competent to arrive at the figure and if the airlines were aggrieved by it, they should have approached it.

He also said that only four airlines had approached the court, all members of the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), against DGCA’s regulation which came into effect from July 1.

As per the new regulation, airlines have been asked to charge Rs 100 per extra kg till 20 kg as against their current rates, ranging from Rs 220 to Rs 350.

Currently, all domestic carriers allow free checked-in baggage up to 15 kgs. Only Air India allows free baggage up to 23 kg.

During the arguments, the ASG said the different rates charged for excess checked-in baggage by the airlines was discriminatory and warranted interference by DGCA.

The court, however, observed that discrimination would have to be seen vis-a-vis passengers and not airlines and asked what was the material considered by DGCA to come to the conclusion that there was discriminatory pricing.

The ASG said DGCA relied on complaints received by it from passengers to come to the finding relating to discriminatory pricing.

Patwalia also argued that DGCA had the power under the rules to regulate air tariff and it can regulate unbundled services, like selection of seats, booking meals etc, by way of its April 30, 2013 circular under which the services were unbundled and that circular has not been challenged.

(Source : PTI)