Saturday, June 09, 2012

Airline told to pay couple for defective seats

MUMBAI: The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has ordered Air India (AI) to offer business-class return air tickets on the Mumbai-New York-Mumbai sector or pay a compensation of Rs 1.6 lakh to a senior citizen couple who faced physical pain due to defective seats on a New York-Mumbai flight. 

 Gujarat-based Tarun Seth and his wife had purchased two business-class tickets for Rs 2,39,537 for a return journey from New York to Mumbai. When they boarded the flight in 2004, they found their seats to be defective—they did not slide or move forward. They immediately complained to the airline staff and were promised a change in seats or an upgrade in London. But no action was taken.

The Seths had to sit in an upright position throughout their journey, enduring pain and discomfort. The seat upgradation was provided only from Delhi to Mumbai as the flight was full.

On their arrival in Mumbai, the airline, in acknowledgment of its deficiency, offered the Seths business-class tickets on the Mumbai-London-Mumbai sector. The Seths did not accept this and requested tickets from Mumbai to New York with a halt in London. But the airline did not accept their condition of a halt in London.

The Seths then sought a refund of their business-class tickets from New York to Mumbai. As the airline did not accept this, the Seths filed a complaint in a district forum.

AI said while it was willing to compensate the Seths, it couldn't accommodate their request for a halt in London as it was no longer operating that flight with a halt in London.

The forum directed the airline to refund the ticket amount with a cumulative interest of 9% per annum and Rs10, 000 towards mental agony, harassment and litigation cost.

Aggrieved by this order, the national carrier filed an appeal before the state commission in Gujarat, which upheld the forum's order but directed that the airline pay simple interest at the rate of 9% per annum instead of cumulative interest. The airline then moved the national commission.

AI contended that as the Seths had completed their journey, the order of the state commission to refund the entire ticket amount was not justified. The airlines stated that it was ready to pay the Seths Rs 1 lakh as compensation.

The national commission said that as the Seths suffered physical inconvenience and mental agony because of defective seats on a long flight, the airline was bound to compensate them for deficiency in service. However, the commission observed that the compensation ordered by the state commission is on the higher side considering that the Seths had travelled and completed their journey.

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