The National Commission held that if an airline does not inform its passengers of the cancellation of a flight, this would amount to a ‘deficiency in service’. The Commission held that the complainant was entitled to a refund of his ticket price, refund of alternative transportation costs as well as Rs. 11,000 as compensation.
Equivalent citations: III (2007) CPJ 284 NC Bench: K G Member, P Shenoy Indian Airlines vs Femina Zai on 28/5/2007 ORDER P.D. Shenoy, Member 1. The short issue to be decided in this case is whether there was any deficiency in service by Indian Airlines in not informing the complainant about the non-operation of their flight from Jodhpur to Delhi on 3rd July, 2005 scheduled at 6.15 p.m. which necessitated the complainant to go by a taxi to New Delhi to catch a flight to USA on the early morning of 4th July, 2005 at 2.35 a.m. The simple answer to the question is “Yes”. 2. Ms. Femina Zai Attorney of Dr. Muzaffar Zai filed this complaint in the District Forum stating that Dr. Muzaffar Zai had a confirmed ticket to USA with departure time at 2.35 a.m. on 4th July, 2005, and he had a confirmed ticket by Indian Airlines from Jodhpur to New Delhi on 3rd July, 2005 with Departure time at 6.15 p.m. for which he had paid Rs. 5,115. On 3rd July, 2005 at 1.00 p.m. he came to know from the office of the Indian Airlines that they will not be operating the flight from Jodhpur to Delhi and, therefore, in a hurry to reach Delhi he hired a private Qualis for which he had paid Rs. 10,000 as rent an claimed compensation of Rs. 3,20,115. 3. After hearing the parties, the District Forum directed the Indian Airlines to pay Rs. 5,115 for the refund of the ticket, Rs. 5,000 as rent of the AC Qualis vehicle, Rs. 11,000 towards compensation for mental agony and Rs. 1,000 as costs. Aggrieved by the order of the District Forum, the Indian Airlines had filed an appeal before the State Commission. The State Commission after hearing theparties confirmed the order of the District Forum. Dissatisfied by the order of the State Commission, the Indian Airlines has filed this revision. 4. The learned Counsel for the petitioner submitted that compensation awarded by District Forum is too high. The complainant had only shared a taxi from Jodhpur to Delhi. Petitioner had published the news of cancellation of the flight in Rajasthan Patrika. Had the complainant visited the airport, the airlines would have provided him with a five star accommodation and also transported him in an air-conditioned vehicle along with other passengers to Delhi. She also contended that the schedules of Indian Airlines are subject to change without notice. As per conditions of contract between Indian Airlines and passengers by virtue of which tickets of Indian Airlines are sold which are duly notified in Gazette of Government of India dated 19.7.1980 and amended by Notification No. AV 11012/5/79-A dated 22.8.1989 and further amended vide Notification No. AV 11012/79-A dated 26.3.1992 which is reproduced as under: The company reserves the right, without assigning any reasons, to cancel, advance, reschedule, overfly or delay the commencement or continuance of the flight or alter the stopping places or to deviate from the route of the journey or to change the type of aircraft in use without thereby incurring any liability in damages or otherwise to the passengers or any other person on any ground whatsoever. 5. In view of this the airlines was fully justified to change its schedule without any notice. To support this contention she quoted the judgment of the National Commission in Mohinderjit Singh Sethi v. Indian Airlines II (2003) CPJ 205 (NC), decided on 11th March 2002. Findings: 6. It is difficult to expect that an NRI read Rajasthan Patrika. If he had read the Rajasthan Patrika he would have made alternate arrangements to travelby any other airline. The person who had a confirmed ticket is keen to catch a flight to USA and is not interested in any five star accommodation which the Indian Airlines would have offered. Further, it was risky for the complainant to go to the airport at 5.15 p.m. (one hour before scheduled departure) and wait till the airport authorities provided shared transport to Delhi as he had to cover a long distance from Jodhpur to Delhi. 7. In Express Travels v. M.R. Shah and Ors. III (2002) CPJ 39 (NC), decided on 6th May, 2002, this Commission has held that departure of flight before the schedule time of departure from Delhi to Kulu and cancellation of the return flight without giving any intimation to the complainant Is a deficiency in service, 8. Similarly, In Air India Ltd. v. M.K. Abdul Majeed IV (2003) CPJ 144 (NC), decided on 26th September, 2003, wherein this Commission has held that cancellation of flight by Airport Authorities from Trivandrum to Mumbai after three hours of boarding the flight without giving any reasons as the airlines could not secure the services of a pilot is a deficiency in service. 9. Though the learned Counsel for Indian Airlines brought to our notice the Gazette Notification which gives Indian Airlines the power to change its schedule at their own sweet will, this contention was neither raised before the District Forum nor before the State Commission. No affidavit has also been filed in which such a contention was ever made. 10. Though the company – Indian Airlines reserves its right to cancel or reschedule the flight without assigning any reason to cancel or reschedule it is its bounding duty to inform each passenger about this well in advance so as to enable him to make alternative arrangement to fly. With this object in view, all Airlines including Indian Airlines, secure the contact telephone number while issuing tickets. In this case, neither the Indian Airlines secured the telephone number nor informed about the cancellation of the flight to him. Hence this becomes a deficiency in service by Indian Airlines as defined under the Consumer Protection Act which reads as under: Deficiency means any fault, imperfection, shortcoming or inadequacy in the quality, nature and manner of performance which is required to be maintained by or under any law for the time being in force or has been undertaken to be performed by a person in pursuance of a contract or otherwise in relation to any service. 11. The learned Counsel for the Indian Airlines contended that had the complainant visited the Airport, the Airlines would have provided with a 5-Star accommodation and transportation to him In an air-condition vehicle along with other passengers to Delhi, If that is so, the issue under consideration is whether the total compensation awarded by the District Forum as confirmed by the State Commission is very high. District Forum has ordered refund of the fare about which there is no dispute. The Forum also ordered for refund of Rs. 5,000 towards transportation cost. The complainant was honest enough to admit that he has shared Qualis taxi for which a total sum of Rs. 10,000 was paid; he claimed only Rs. 5,000. The Airlines Authority did not produce any evidence to show that it costs less. Lastly, the Forum awarded Rs. 11,000 as compensation. If the Airlines had provided him 5-Star accommodation, boarding, telephone calls and local transport it would have cost not less than Rs. 11,000. Hence under any set of circumstances, it cannot be construed that the compensation awarded was exorbitant. 12. In view of the aforesaid analysis, we do not find any material irregularity or legal infirmity in the order passed by the State Commission. Hence, the revision petition is dismissed. There shall be no order as to costs.