CHANDIGARH: State Consumer Disputes redressal forum has directed Lufthansa Airlines to pay Rs 37.50 lakhs, British Airways to pay Rs 27.50 lakhs and Surya Travels and Associates comes to Rs 5 lakhs for causing mental harassment to sector 35 based senior citizen during her travel from San Francisco to Delhi.
As per the complainant Harsharn Kaur Dhaliwal, 60, she had to suffer a great mental agony and physical harassment,due to the re-routing, cancellation of the confirmed flights by Lufthansa German Airlines and British Airways, she was also taken into custody of the Airport Police at Copenhagen (Denmark) because she was arbitrarily sent on the route, for which she was not having visa and even the transit visa was not provided to her. The complainant was suffering from diabetes, knee problem and hypertension.
The complainant had arranged round-trip booking, through Suresh Kumar, a representative of Surya Travels and Associates, Chandigarh, with Star Alliance member Swiss Air and Lufthansa to travel from New Delhi to San Francisco via Zurich and return-journey tickets from San Francisco to New Delhi via Frankfurt.
Her first journey started on January 18, 2018 and remained successful, except for non-providing of diabetic food as per demand and also a wheelchair. However, she suffered much harassment and agony on the return journey. As per schedule, she boarded flight of Lufthansa Airlines from San Francisco to Frankfurt on march 19, 2018 and also got checked-in her baggage and was issued boarding pass in due course of time. She remained in the aeroplane for about three hours and thereafter, she was told to de-board the flight and collect her baggage.
To her surprise and dismay the Lufthansa Airlines, without consulting or informing her, re-routed her journey from San Francisco to New Delhi and she was handed over the air tickets from San Francisco to New Delhi via London on British Airways, as alternative arrangement.
The journey was rerouted vide flight 1 from San Francisco to London, then by flight 2 from London to Copenhagen, and then by flight 3 of Air India from Copenhagen to New Delhi and all were the connected flights. However, in accordance with the alternative/rerouting plan on 19.03.2018 at 9.35pm, she boarded the first flight from San Francisco but it arrived too late at Heathrow-London airport, as a result of which, the connected flight 2 from London to Copenhagen had already departed.
Surprisingly, no alternative arrangements were made for the complainant for her safe return to New Delhi, she said. Ultimately, after much persuasion, she was made to board another flight, which departed London at 7.05pm on march 20, 2018 and reached Copenhagen (Denmark) at 10 pm. Again, there was no connected flight to New Delhi, as per the schedule.
As the connected flight was not available at Copenhagen (Denmark), she was stranded at the airport without any proper visa. Thus, she was unauthorizedly detained by Airport Police at Copenhagen (Denmark) for the whole of the night and was treated like a criminal, she said. With great difficulty, her husband contacted the Ambassador concerned and with his assistance, she was released and was again sent to India by Turkish Airlines from Copenhagen to Istanbul (Turkey) and thereafter boarded another flight on march 21, 2018 from Istanbul and ultimately reached New Delhi on march 22, 2018 at 5.50 a.m.
Airlines blamed each other for the delay caused and lack of transit visa and facilities that were not provided to the complainant.
However, the commission held that “Detaining a person without his fault is the gravest act of inhumanity and the person arrested actually suffers an irreparable loss which cannot be compensated in terms of money. If a lady is detained publicly, at an airport, it amounts to ignominy and it will gravely lower the reputation of the detente. In Fact her arrest and detention in the circumstances of the case in hand, without her fault and due to sheer negligence of both the airlines requires that the exemplary cost be imposed.” They were then directed to pay up.
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