An Italian airline, which botched up an Indian national's return journey from the US during which he suffered a humiliating 24-hour detention at Rome and subsequent deportation to Mumbai, has been asked by the country's apex consumer forum to return his air fare.
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission ordered Alitalia to return Mumbai resident Gopinath K Deshpande's air fare from Newark to Mumbai, holding the the company guilty of rendering deficient service.
"The airlines company re-routed the passenger from Newark (USA) to Rome, without checking whether he had an Italian visa for his travel from Rome to Milan in order to catch the flight from Milan to Mumbai. This is an instance of deficiency in service on the part of the Alitalia's staff at Newark," said the Commission's bench of justices P N Kashalkar and S P Lale.
The bench passed the judgment on a complaint by Deshpande who had booked two-way flight from Mumbai to Newark near New Jersey in the United States via Milan in October 2001.
In his complaint, he told the Commission that during his stay in the US in November 2001, he decided to advance his journey back to Mumbai and approached Alitalia office in Newark for rescheduling of his return ticket.
Claiming that after Alitalia rescheduled his Newark Mumbai journey via Milan and confirmed the ticket for it, he approached the Newark airport on the slated date for travel.
But the airline staff, saying that his Newark-Mumbai ticket via Milan was not confirmed, put him a on a flight to Rome, assuring him that a link flight from there would take him to Milan from where he can fly back to Mumbai.
But, he was in for a rude shock at Rome, where the police confiscated his ticket and passport on the grounds that he did not have the Italian visa to travel to Milan from Rome, about which the Alitalia staffer kept him in dark in Newark, said Deshpande.
Deshpande said he had to remain in the custody of Rome police for over 24 hours after which they brought him to Milan and from there deported him back to Mumbai, where he underwent a four-hour-long grilling by security agencies again because he had been deported.
Deshpande had claimed compensation of Rs 19 lakh from the Italian airlines for humiliation and inconvenience.
The NCDRC, though found no proof of his claim of seat confirmation, held Alitalia guilty for providing deficient service as it did not inform him about mandatory visa needs at Rome before re-routing his journey.
"Holding the Airlines company guilty of deficiency in service and it is directed to pay to the passenger a sum equal to the actual air fare charged by it for his journey from Newark to Mumbai," the consumer court held.