Couple allegedly offloaded by Cathay Pacific for carrying breathing aid

BySatish Nandgaonkar
Mar 19, 2023 12:54 AM IST

Mumbai: Two passengers who were allegedly offloaded by Cathay Pacific on March 14 for carrying a portable breathing device have served a legal notice to the airline, claiming compensation and damages to tune of ₹55

Mumbai: Two passengers who were allegedly offloaded by Cathay Pacific on March 14 for carrying a portable breathing device have served a legal notice to the airline, claiming compensation and damages to tune of 55.30 lakh. portable breathing devices are allowed by international aviation regulators like the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA)

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HT Image

According to the legal notice issued by Vaibhav Mehta and Associates, Divyakant Chhabildas Mehta, 71, and his wife Rasika Divyakant Mehta, 74, were forcibly offloaded by the Cathay Pacific crew on the ground that a portable oxygen concentrator (POC) which Rasika Mehta, a pulmonary fibrosis patient, was carrying on medical advice was not allowed on board the flight.

The Mehtas, both senior advocates by profession and Ghatkopar residents, had booked business-class tickets on Cathay Pacific flight CX660 from Mumbai to Hong Kong, and CX056 from Hong Kong to Osaka in Japan on March 14. They had also booked the return tickets on Cathay Pacific on flights CX527 from Tokyo to Hong Kong and CX66 from Hong Kong to Mumbai on March 23.

When they reached the airport on the night of March 13 to board CX660, which was scheduled to depart at 2.15 am on March 14, the airline crew created a ruckus and refused to allow Mehta to carry the POC in her hand baggage for emergency medical use. This, despite the couple showing the crew the medical certificate which advised that a POC be carried on flight since Mehta suffers from pulmonary fibrosis, a lung condition that can progressively bring in shortness of breath.

The legal notice said Mehta was carrying Philips ‘Simply Go’ brand of POC, which was the first product that the American Federal Aviation Administration allowed on board. The couple also showed the crew the FAA circular which allows POC on board flights and guidelines by the International Air Transport Association, which represents global airline operators.

After one and half hours of arguments and consultations with their superiors and the pilots, the crew finally allowed the Mehtas to board the flight. But before they could settle down, a crew member objected to the POC, and they had to explain the entire scenario again. The crew member then stated that Mehta should not charge the POC on flight sockets, as it would require additional charges. The Mehtas even agreed to pay additional charges if they had to charge the device on board.

Minutes later, another crew member came and objected to the POC. The couple explained that they were carrying two batteries which would suffice for the duration of the journey, and would only use the flight sockets if the batteries were exhausted. Despite this, the crew member said the couple would have to be offloaded, as the device was not allowed, and threatened to forcibly offload them.

“The conduct of the staff and crew members attached to your airline is highly unprofessional and deplorable. Our highly respected clients were treated as if they were hardened criminals and disembarked from the flight against their wish/consent, forcibly in complete breach of their entitlement to continue to be on board the flight and complete the journey as planned,” the notice said, adding that the crew’s conduct was in violation of the guidelines laid down by the ministry of civil aviation and their rights as consumers under the Consumer Protection Act, 2019.

The notice said the Mehtas suffered a huge financial loss, as their actual flight cost was 5.30 lakh, return tickets cost 3.22 lakh, and they incurred a loss of 1.80 lakh due to cancellation of the forward bookings for their journey. They claimed punitive damages compensation of 55.30 lakh and an unconditional apology within three working days, failing which they said they would launch civil and criminal proceedings against the airline.

When contacted for their response, Cathay Pacific corporate communication executives did not respond to repeated calls and messages and an email.

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