1 Sep 2023 7:30 AM GMT
Recently, the Hyderabad District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission-III bench comprising of M. Ram Gopal Reddy (President), D. Sreedevi (Member) and J. Shyamala (Member) noted that an airline cannot exempt itself from refund of tickets in cases of force majeure events that led to cancellation of flight. The bench directed Go Airlines to pay a compensation of Rs. 10,000...
Recently, the Hyderabad District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission-III bench comprising of M. Ram Gopal Reddy (President), D. Sreedevi (Member) and J. Shyamala (Member) noted that an airline cannot exempt itself from refund of tickets in cases of force majeure events that led to cancellation of flight. The bench directed Go Airlines to pay a compensation of Rs. 10,000 and reimburse additional flight charges totalling Rs. 13,956 to a passenger whose flight to the Maldives was abruptly cancelled just a week before the scheduled departure.
Sri D.V. Manohar (“Complainant”), a 69-year-old businessperson, had booked round-trip airline tickets for his family's holiday trip to the Maldives. The tickets were confirmed for a flight from Hyderabad to Male on December 26, 2021, and a return journey from Male to Hyderabad on January 1, 2022. The total cost of the tickets, issued by M/s. Go Airlines (India) Limited (“GoAir”), was Rs 77,408.
However, 11 days before the scheduled departure, on December 15, 2021, GoAir sent an email to the complainant informing him of the cancellation of the flight from Hyderabad to Male. Subsequently, on December 19, 2021, GoAir notified him of the cancellation of the return flight from Male to Hyderabad. Aggrieved, the complainant filed a consumer complaint in the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission-III, Hyderabad (“District Commission”).
The complainant alleged that these abrupt cancellations led to a situation where he had to make last-minute arrangements and book tickets with another airline, incurring additional expenses of Rs 13,956. The complainant asserted that GoAir's actions caused him and his family significant mental distress, stress, and financial loss due to the last-minute bookings and associated costs. Despite his attempts to communicate with GoAir seeking resolution, it did not provide an alternative arrangement or refund the additional expenses.
GoAir argued that the cancellations were due to operational issues beyond their control. They contended that they informed the complainant about the cancellations through email and text messages. GoAir relied on Clause 1.4 of the Civil Aviation Requirements (“CAR”), which provided an exemption to airlines for payment of compensation in cases of flight cancellations caused by events of force majeure. They claimed that they had refunded the total booking amount of Rs 77,408 to the complainant and, therefore, there was no pending grievance.
Observations by the Commission:
The District Commission noted that there was no dispute regarding the complainant's booking of round-trip tickets for his family's holiday trip to the Maldives through GoAir. The tickets were confirmed for a specific departure and return date, with a total cost of Rs 77,408. It was established that GoAir had indeed cancelled both the departure and return flights, causing inconvenience to the complainant and his family.
The District Commission examined the emails and text messages exchanged between the complainant and GoAir, confirming the abrupt cancellation of the flights. They also acknowledged the complainant's claim that he had to make last-minute arrangements and book tickets with another airline at an additional cost of Rs 13,956 due to the cancellations.
The District Commission observed that while GoAir had relied on Clause 1.4 of the Civil Aviation Requirements (CAR) to exempt themselves from compensation in cases of force majeure events, this argument did not hold substantial weight in this case. It was highlighted that the abrupt cancellations of the flights had led to significant mental agony, stress, and financial loss for the complainant and his family. The District Commission stressed that the GoAir's actions caused undue hardship and inconvenience to the complainant, which constituted a deficiency in service and an unfair trade practice.
The District Commission concluded that despite the alleged force majeure event, the airline had a responsibility to provide consistent and reliable services to its passengers. The abrupt cancellations disrupted the complainant's travel plans and resulted in significant financial and emotional strain. Thus, the District Commission found merit in the complainant's claim for compensation.
The District Commission ordered GoAir to pay compensation of Rs. 10,000 to the complainant for the mental agony and inconvenience caused by the abrupt flight cancellations. Additionally, the airline was directed to reimburse the complainant Rs. 13,956, representing the extra expenses he incurred due to the last-minute bookings with another airline.
Case: Sri. D.V. Manohar vs M/s. Go Airlines (India) Limited
Case No.: CC/830/2022
Advocate for the Complainant: Mr. A.V. Dhanamjaya Rao
Advocate for the Respondent: Sri. Anjaneyulu V.U.S.S.R
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