An air ticket is a contract between a passenger and an airline and therefore should contain all the terms related to the travel itinerary to enable a traveller understand the conditions clearly.
Directing a prominent international airline to refund Rs. 80,080 to a Bangalore couple, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC) said the company's policy to use code-words on the air ticket was “totally anti-consumer.”
It dismissed Lufthansa German Airlines' appeal against the Chennai State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission's (CSCDRC) decision and said, “In the present case, only code-words have been used, expecting the passenger to imagine the limitations themselves, which is, to say the least, is totally anti-consumer.”
“It is not open for the petitioner Airlines to withhold some information on their records and not incorporating them in clear terms in the tickets. The interpretation as made by the State Commission, in our view, is fully in accordance with the facts and circumstances of the case.”
The dispute rose after Lufthansa rejected the couple's claim for refund. Dr R Bhaskaran and his wife purchased a return journey air tickets from Lufthansa's travel agent in Chennai.
The tickets were valid up to February 8, 2003.
The couple went to the USA on August 8, 2002 and their return journey was kept open for the period of its validity. Due to Bhasakaran's sickness, the couple decided to return before the end of validity period.
Lufthansa, however, did not them seats due to unavailability, forcing the couple to spend a huge amount of money for traveling on a different airline.
Lufthansa had contended that the tickets were issued under the ‘excursion fare scheme’ that barred refund of unused return tickets. It also claimed that the same was referred to the code-word 'HE6M' in the tickets and the travel agent had explained the terms to the couple.
Dismissing the airline's contention, the NCDRC said, “The airlines ought to have clearly stated on the jacket of the tickets that the same were being issued under a special concessional scheme and it ought to have given the terms and conditions attached to the tickets as opposed to a normal ticket.”