Air India to compensate passenger denied boarding

February 6th, 2009 - 7:43 pm ICT by IANS  

New Delhi, Feb 6 (IANS) Air India was Friday asked by a consumer court here to compensate a passenger with Rs.140,000 for refusing to let her board a London-Delhi flight in 2001 despite her having a confirmed ticket.The Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission came to the rescue of Geetika Sachdeva and asked Air India to not only refund Rs.40,000 towards cost of tickets but also to pay Rs.100,000 as compensation for not letting her board the plane and for delayed baggage delivery.

Geetika had bought a confirmed air ticket through a travel agency - International Students Travels Pvt Ltd - for Delhi-London-Toronto-London-Delhi.

She travelled to Toronto Sep 7, 2001 and intended to return to Delhi Dec 6. On Nov 2, she informed Air India of her intention to travel from London to Delhi Dec 7 and in turn was informed that her ticket was confirmed for London to Delhi.

She boarded an Air Canada flight from Toronto Dec 6 and reached London. But at London she was told the validity of her ticket had expired and she was denied boarding.

Geetika was travelling alone and did not have enough money to buy another ticket. After waiting for several hours at the airport, she met another Indian passenger Shobit Sinha, who had come from Chicago and had also been denied boarding on the same ground. With his help, she purchased a ticket of Virgin Atlantic Airways and came to Delhi.

Her baggage, however, was transported by Air India, which was delivered to her after a long delay Dec 11 and that too after charging Rs.665.

Justice J.D. Kapoor, president of the consumer commission, while ruling in favour of Geetika, said: “No airline has the right to refuse boarding to a person with a confirmed status ticket even if he has not re-confirmed the same 72 hours before, particularly when seats are available and had not been allotted to any other passenger….”

Air India, in its plea, had said that the passenger had booked an open ticket for the Toronto-Delhi sector, which required prior confirmation before commencement of the journey and since she failed to do, so she could not be accommodated.

The court did not find favour with the airline’s plea and observed that the consumer had intimated the counterpart of Air India at Toronto in advance about her plan to travel Dec 7 from London to Delhi and therefore to say that there was no confirmation is wrong.

“The passenger was a young lady and travelled alone and therefore must have faced immense hardship when she was denied boarding. To expect a person to travel in such a situation without having the huge funds required is to deny the ground realities,” Justice Kapoor said.

“She was a transit passenger and therefore it was the duty of the airline to make all possible arrangements to accommodate her on its flight leaving London,” he added.

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