The Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has directed Kuwait Airways to pay Rs 6 lakh to a man who was not allowed to board a connecting flight from Kuwait City to London in 2019 despite having a valid ticket for a round trip. The commission directed the airways and its country head to pay Rs 5 lakh for deficiency in services along with Rs 50,000 each for mental harassment and litigation expenses. It observed that not allowing a person to board the plane was “nothing short of callous, tortuous and an oppressive act as it caused immense mental agony, physical discomfort, humiliation and emotional trauma”.
A bench of Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal, the commission president, was hearing a complaint claiming around Rs 55 lakh in compensation for deficiency in services by the airline. Complainant Shameemuddin alleged that he was not allowed to board his connecting flight to London on reaching Kuwait City from Delhi on February 1, 2019. He was “illegally” sent back from the airport to New Delhi despite having all travel documents.
The bench, also comprising Judicial Member Pinki and General Member JP Agrawal, noted that, according to the airlines, Shameemuddin was offloaded from the flight and deported to India on account of “poor profile” by the Airline Liaison Officer (ALO) concerned, who represented the UK Embassy.
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“It appears that by offering excuses and blatantly shifting the blame on the ALO, the opposite parties (airlines and its country head) are divorced from realities of life or the acute frustration and agony of the passenger who is denied boarding,” the bench said in an order dated July 21.
“To deny a person the boarding of the plane is nothing short of callous, tortuous and oppressive act as it causes immense mental agony, physical discomfort, humiliation and emotional trauma which remains with the person throughout his life. It verges almost to an injustice done to a person for no fault of his,” it added. The bench said the airline’s duty was to take “reasonable care of the passenger” and not expose him to such “humiliation, unwarranted harassment and mental agony”.
“We are of the opinion that the opposite parties provided deficient service to the complainant and, therefore, are liable to compensate him,” the commission said. It directed the airline to pay Rs 5 lakh for the financial loss suffered on account of deficient services along with Rs 50,000 for mental harassment and Rs 50,000 for litigation expenses.
Advocate Mahmood Alam, the complainant’s counsel, said Shameemuddin purchased a new ticket from another airline after being sent back and reached the UK. “It is abysmally surprising to note that the complainant reached Birmingham, UK, on February 3, ie, just one day after the alleged deportation and did not encounter any issues whatsoever on account of his poor profile,” the commission said.
It said the opposite parties cannot shift the burden on the Airline Liaison Officer in light of the fact that the UK Immigration Officer did not stop the complainant when he arrived in Birmingham. “It is surprising how a reputed international airline can aboard a passenger and then deny boarding a connecting flight midway through his journey without any supporting documents to explain the reasons for taking such drastic measures,” the commission said.
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