The basic duty of an airline towards a passenger who it has left behind is to provide meals and accommodation for overnight stay, the apex consumer commission has said while asking Indigo Airlines to pay compensation to a family of four who failed to board the flight due to deficiency in service.
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), hearing a review plea of the Airlines against the Tripura state commission’s order, asked Indigo to pay Rs 20,000 to Kalpana Rani Debbarma and her family.
Debbarma, her husband and her two minor sons were travelling from Kolkata to Agartala availing Indigo flight services in 2017. The Airlines had issued boarding passes to all of them.
Debbarma claimed in her plea that the Airlines left all her family at the Kolkata Airport without informing them despite their being in the Airport premises.
She also claimed that the airport staff snatched away the tickets from her when she went to the office staff to file a written complaint.
The family had to stay in a hotel and purchase new tickets the next day.
“The basic duty of care for a passenger who has been left behind despite issuance of the boarding passes, when admittedly boarding passes were issued well ahead of the boarding time and the baggage was also boarded on to the Airlines, is to provide meals and refreshments, hotel accommodation in cases where stay of one more night is necessary and the operating carrier should also pay particular attention to the needs of the accompanying family,” said a bench comprising Justice R K Agrawal and presiding member Justice M Shreesha.
The Commission said that apart from not only forcibly taking the boarding passes from the complainants, no effort was made by the Airline to compensate them by arranging for their travel in the next scheduled flight to Agartala.
“It is not in dispute that the Complainants were put to lot of mental agony and inconvenience as they had to stay in a hotel for two days and once again travelled by Indigo Airlines after two days after having had to purchase fresh tickets by spending an amount of Rs 16,432,” it said.
The commission further said that even when the complainants chose to fly again by the Airlines after two days there was no concession made by way of “compensating for the inconvenience caused”.
“The airline should have taken care to see that the passengers boarded the plane specially when the baggage was also checked in. Further, the attitude of the Airline in snatching away the boarding pass is deprecated,” it said.
The airline had contended that numerous announcements were made at regular intervals and that the passengers did not report at the boarding gate on time.
It said that once the passengers checked in, their movements are restricted to a very limited sensitised area and it is “beyond comprehension” not to report at the gate and hence the assertion that the announcements were made “does not hold any water”.
“More so, when it is not a silent airport, we are of the considered view that announcements should be made at least in the sensitised waiting area,” the commission said.