Charging money from a passenger for rescheduling a flight after its cancellation is going to cost Air India INR 20,000.The District Consumer Dispute Redressal Commission has ordered the airlines to refund INR 8,506 with interest at 8 per cent per annum and pay INR 20,000 as compensation for mental agony, harassment and litigation expenses to a resident of Sector 45.
Rinshika Thukral on January 11, 2020, booked air tickets through an online travel agency for INR 44,161 from Paris to New Delhi and back. The complainant was to travel from Paris to New Delhi on April 4, 2020, and return to Paris on April 13, 2020.
However, a day before the flight, Thukral received an email from the agency about change of timings and then about cancellation due to operational reasons.
When Thukral contacted the agency for refund, the agency sent her a message that due to the nationwide Coronavirus lockdown, all flights were suspended between March 25, 2020, and April 14, 2020. Thukral said she was offered a rescheduling option only.
The airline had created a credit voucher equivalent to the ticket amount on its website. The complainant could pick a future travel date without rescheduling charges.
Thukral booked a fresh ticket on November 3, 2020, for Paris to Delhi on December 4, 2020, and return to Paris on January 10, 2021. However, the agency, after adjusting the earlier amount of INR 44,161, unauthorisedly charged INR 8,506 despite assurance the future travel date could be picked without any rescheduling charges, Thukral said.
On the other hand, the counsel for Air India argued the airlines has no privity of contract with the complainant. The counsel said air tickets are sold in bulk by airlines to the agency, which further deals with the customers.
However, the counsel for the agency argued that its client is only an intermediary and the agency’s role is confined to booking and confirming flights.
In case, a flight is cancelled or rescheduled, the agency has no control over it. The counsel contended if the flight was cancelled, the airline would have to generate the refund. Had airlines generated the refund against the cancellation of the flight, the agency would have paid it to the complainant, the counsel argued.
After hearing the pleas, the commission fined the airlines.