Daily News & Analysis
MUMBAI, May 16: Ask a frequent air traveller and you would get quite a handful of complaints about Air-India’s service. In a recent landmark judgment by the consumer court, not only a city-based surgeon won compensation of Rs2.8 lakh for harassment and deficiency in service, the court also show-caused the general manager (legal) of the company for perjury.
This is one of the highest compensation ever won by a consumer against complaints of harassment in the country and sets a precedent.
The Maharashtra State Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission, apart from the deficiency in service, rapped Air-India for perjury by its general manager (legal) in its verdict.
Vinayak Ngesh Shrikhande (72), a surgeon residing at Dadar and professor and head of general department of the Bombay Hospital purchased a ticket in the business class (J) of Air-India to travel between Mumbai and New York on October 11 2003, which cost him Rs1.46lakh.
The executive (Y) class fare for the same journey for Air-India was Rs35000 only. After boarding the aircraft, he found that the seat could not be reclined. He had to travel till London in upright position for over nine hours. Even the seat belt was damaged and did not work. Flight attendants failed to repair both.
Despite paying a premium, Shrikhande was forced to travel with none of the promised comforts - on the contrary he suffered physically worse than the executive class passengers who could still enjoy some amount of reclining with their seats.
Shrikhande was not even offered another seat in the J class despite the airlines upgrading some of the Y class passengers to the J class and offering free seats to its own staff.
The company had apologised to Shrikhande after he complained and promised him to offer free J class ticket to Dubai or to Delhi next time he travelled. But when he filed an official complaint to the consumer forum, the A-I filed a written statement signed by the general manager (legal) which claimed that Shrikhande’s claims were false. On examining the documents, statements affidavits and records, the commission strongly denounced the statement by the general manager (legal) claiming it “nothing, but an attempt made by him of saving skin of Air-India by making virtually false and bogus pleading emanating from the legal brains of the advocate.”
It also claimed the affidavit was devoid of any evidence collected from flight records or contained testimonial of any flight attendant or of the pilot. It said it was filed by a person “sitting in the air-conditioned office of Air India Nariman Point and was “absolutely false”.
It was also found from the flight records that there were nine passengers who were travelling in J class on the given day either free of cost being Air India staff or were upgraded to J class for the particular date.