Chandigarh Consumer Court Slaps Rs 70 Lac Fine On 2 Airlines For Passenger Ordeal

The State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has slapped a fine of Rs 70 lac on travel agencies, British Airways, and Lufthansa Airlines because a city-based woman was made to spend a night in the lockup of Denmark’s airport. This was due to the re-routing of her flight from San Francisco to New Delhi.

Harsharn Kaur Dhaliwal (60) had booked her round trip from New Delhi to San Francisco from Surya Travels and Associates of Chandigarh. As per the schedule she had to do the outbound journey via Zurich on Swiss Air and Lufthansa and return journey via Frankfurt.

The Judgement

The commission justified its hefty fine imposed on the travel agency and airlines. As per the statement in its verdict, detaining a passenger in an overseas airport for no fault amounts to disgrace. This shows the negligence of the airlines in attending to the needs of the passenger. That is why an exemplary fine was imposed to drive the point.

Harsharn Kaur had left New Delhi on January 18, 2018. On her return journey on March 19, 2018, she boarded a Lufthansa flight from San Francisco to Frankfurt. She was made to sit for three hours on the plane. However, the plane did not take off and passengers were de-boarded.

According to Harsharn, she was not provided with a wheelchair while deboarding. No one helped her to identify her luggage either. She managed to collect her luggage only after her son came to the airport.

The lady was made to board a British Airways flight, without her knowledge. Her return journey was re-routed from San Francisco to New Delhi via London. According to the revised schedule, her first leg of the journey was from San Francisco to London. From there, she had to fly to Copenhagen, Denmark and then by Air India to New Delhi.

Unfortunately, the flight from San Francisco arrived late in London. Due to this, Harsharn Kaur missed her onward flight to Copenhagen. She was made to board another flight departing from London. Again to her utter shock, Harsharn did not have any connecting flight ready to take her to Delhi from Copenhagen.

Left Without A Visa

She was not provided with the transit visa by the airlines, though it was their duty. Harsharn was “unauthorisedly detained” at the airport by the police of Copenhagen for one night. It was only when the woman’s husband contacted the ambassador concerned, that she was released and sent to India ultimately on Turkish Airlines via Istanbul to New Delhi. Harsharn reached on March 22, 2018. She filed a formal complaint with the consumer forum on May 2, 2019.

The Parties’ Defense

Lufthansa: In its defense, Lufthansa said that they were not responsible for the visa of a passenger.

It added that the passenger was updated on the re-routing of her flights.

  • British Airways: On the other hand, British Airways said that it had no control over the passenger taking a ticket from Surya Travels.
  • Surya Travels: On its part, Surya Travels and Associates said that the ordeal the passenger had to undergo was due to technical issues.

It also added that the complainant had already received suitable compensation from the insurance company.

As Per Consumer Court

After going through the arguments of all the three defendants, the consumer court said that it was indeed the duty of the airlines involved to provide the passenger with the transit visa if her journey was rerouted.

The commission added that the cops kept a continuous vigil on her as if she was a dreaded criminal. Finally, the consumer court of Chandigarh slapped a fine of Rs 5 lac to the travel agency. Both the airlines were together fined Rs 64.5 lac for the ordeal the lady had to undergo. The three parties to the issue had to pay an additional Rs 50,000 each to Harsharn Kaur as litigation cost.

News Source: News18

Image Source: Google Images