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Consumer court slams budget airlines

The Delhi State Consumer Commission slams low-fare private airlines for making it a habit of cancelling flights at the last minute on frivolous grounds, reports Harish V. Nair.

india Updated: May 21, 2008 03:10 IST
Harish V. Nair

The Delhi State Consumer Commission on Tuesday slammed low-fare private airlines for making it a habit of cancelling flights at the last minute on frivolous grounds, forcing hassled passengers to change travel plans or run from pillar to post for a refund.

“Service providers like airlines do not realise that such casual attitude towards the passengers cause immense mental agony and emotional suffering. They are not only left stranded with travel plans gone awry but are also made to run from pillar to post when they ask for a fare refund. Such complaints are rising,” Commission president Justice J.D. Kapoor said.

The commission warned all such airlines as it imposed Rs 50,000 in fines on Air Deccan for one such cancellation. In the case involving the low-fare carrier, Ajay Goel, who lives in Mansarover Garden in New Delhi, had booked Bombay-Delhi tickets for May 3, 2007, for himself and two relatives under a promotional fare scheme with a less-than-Rs 300 basic fare. The tickets were booked on November 12, 2006.

Few days before the flight, he received a call from Air Deccan that said all flights in the sector from May 1 to May 31 stood cancelled.

Doubting Air Deccan’s intention, Garg checked the airline web site. The budget flights were withdrawn so the carrier’s aircraft in which passengers had bought costlier tickets could fly the sector.

“Whenever any airline cites circumstances beyond its control for delay or cancellation of a flight, the onus is heavily on the service provider to prove it. Otherwise it is bound to compensate the consumer for wrongful cancellation or delay,” Justice Kapoor said, asking Air Deccan to pay Rs 25,000 to Goel. The airline was also asked to pay Rs 25,000 to the state consumer welfare fund.

Lawyers welcomed the order. “Such cancellations strike at the very root of the concept of low-budget flying and it has to be curbed. The earlier one books cheaper he can fly. But if his flight is cancelled on the eve of journey, he has no option other than make an expensive trip on some other flight,” says advocate Manish Kumar.