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‘Flights’ of fancy: Residents wake up to consumer courts

Harassed passengers seem to have discovered a new haven to help them come to terms with a ruined holiday-consumer courts.

Written by Aneesha Sareen | Chandigarh |
March 30, 2009 1:42:37 am

Harassed passengers seem to have discovered a new haven to help them come to terms with a ruined holiday — consumer courts. The UT Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum has been literally flooded with complaints against airlines,both domestic and international,with the number of such cases tripling in two years.

A generous compensation — the price of an air ticket seems paltry if you consider the huge penalties awarded for harassment — may be one of the causes for the residents’ newfound zeal. From NRIs to advocates,businessmen and doctors,all aggrieved passengers,are making a beeline for the consumer court citing flight delays,food poisoning or loss of baggage.

Since its inception in 1994,the UT Consumer Forum has received 115 complaints relating to airlines. The total number of such cases was a meagre 34 in 2006 which increased to 74 in 2007.

The UT State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission,which caters to cases that claim a compensation of over Rs 20 lakh,has witnessed 59 cases relating to airlines since its inception. The number that stood at 25 in 2007 spiralled to 57 in December 2008.

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“I believe the rise in cases is directly proportional to the quick disposal rate. Now,people believe in the power of consumer forums,” says Jagrup Singh Mahal,president of the UT District Consumer Forum.

A high-profile verdict that rocked the city in December last year was when Emirates,a premium international airline,was directed to pay Rs 11 lakh as compensation to a senior high court advocate M L Sarin. The compensation was in lieu of a defective footrest,an erroneous booking for a trip to Dubai which resulted in delay. But the advocate is yet to receive the compensation amount as the airlines have moved the National Commission against the decision.

“I was determined to fight against the harassment. Also,the response my case received from the public was tremendous. Scores of harassed passengers approached the forum after that,” says Sarin.

Another path-breaking case was when the forum directed Jetlite India to pay Rs 5,000 as compensation for loss of baggage in transit.

The complainant,Manish Mehra,boarded a flight from Delhi to Bangalore in January 2008 only to find his baggage missing when he landed. To add insult to injury,the airlines refused to lend an ear to his complaints.

“I filed a case in the forum not because I craved for compensation,but I wanted to urge the court to form guidelines wherein domestic airlines have to claim responsibility for such losses,” says Mehra,a businessman.

July 8,2008
Indian Airlines was directed to pay Rs 15,000 for offloading passengers in February 2007.
August 13,2008
British Airways was directed to pay Rs 50,000 for serving chicken to a Brahmin family.
August 14,2008
The forum directed Indian Airlines to pay Rs 10,000 as compensation after a live insect was found in the food.
February 5,2009
City-based industrialist and managing director of Surya Pharmaceuticals Ltd Rajiv Goyal was awarded Rs 2 lakh by Indian Airlines after his flight from Delhi to Srinagar was cancelled at Jammu.

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