NATIONAL CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL COMMISSION
Chandi Prasad Bhatt … Complainant
British Airways … Opposite Party
HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE D.P. WADHWA,
HON’BLE MR. JUSTICE J.K. MEHRA, MEMBER.
MR. B.K. TAIMNI, MEMBER.
1. Denied Boarding (DNB) compensation - usual story of overbooking as per international practice bona fide passenger holding valid ticket denied boarding on account of overbooking not provided any compensation or hotel accommodation.
2. Flown in the next flight by upgrading the ticket - awarded a sum of Rs.22,500/- as damages to cover the cost of hotel accommodation and other charges
O R D E R
DATED THE 28th November, 2002
JUSTICE D.P. WADHWA, J.(PRESIDENT)
Complainant, who was to go to Mexico to attend an international conference between 13.4.96 to 22.4.96, held a confirmed ticket of British Airways departing from Indira Gandhi International Airport on 13.4.96 at 12.30 AM. Because of overbooking of the aircraft, complainant was denied boarding. In this complaint complainant has made a claim for Rs. 25.00 lakhs as compensation as he said that he suffered loss and injury to his professional standing and reputation in the international community and also for the mental anguish, harassment and inconvenience he suffered on that account.
Such type of claim is not maintainable in a case where a passenger, though holding a confirmed ticket, is denied boarding due to over booking. In the case of denied boarding in similar circumstances this Commission has already given two judgments viz. Dr. Arun Jain vs. Thai Airways International Ltd. (Original Petition No.80 of 1997) decided on 21st March, 2002 and Rajinder Pal Jaura vs. The Secretary, Union of India & Anr. (Original petition No.266/97) decided on 12th November, 2002. In these cases this Commission has held that over booking is an international practice resorted to by all international airlines. In fact in the folder of the ticket issued to the complainant he had been apprised of the circumstances of “No-Show” Passengers and Overbooking and these we quote:
“No-Show - Passengers
On most major airlines, including British Airways, a proportion of passengers who have booked seats do not present themselves for their flight. These passengers are known as ‘no shows’. Their number varies from route to route but may be substantial.
If you have a booking on one of our flights but know that you are not going to be able to travel on that flight, please let us know as early as possible. Knowing that you are not going to use your reservation, we can then offer the seat to another customer who otherwise would be unable to travel. Remember that one day you may be the passenger needing a reservation on an already fully-booked flight.
In order to minimise the effect of ‘no-shows’, and to enable their seats to be used by passengers who otherwise would not be able to travel on their chosen flight, British Airways, and most major airlines may overbook services. By careful monitoring and control we do our utmost to match the number of available seats to the number of passengers that we expect will appear for the flight.
Whilst British Airways makes every effort to provide seats for which confirmed reservations have been made, no absolute guarantee of seat availability is denoted by the expression reservation, bookings, status OK and the timings attached to them.
British Airways operates compensation schemes for passengers with confirmed reservations who are unjustifiably denied carriage because of non-availability of seats and details of these schemes are available at check-in.
If you have any questions about our overbooking or denied boarding compensation policy, please write to Customer Relations Manager, British Airways, P.O. Box 10, London Heathrow airport, Hounslow, Middlesex TW6 2JA”
Complainant it appears when he was denied boarding, he immediately left the airport and sent a notice through his legal advisor to the opposite party- British Airways on 13.4.96 which was received by the British Airways on the same day. Complainant was flown by the British Airways on the night of 14.4.96, the aircraft departing at 12.30 AM.
In the notice the complainant required the British Airways to ensure that he is allowed to catch flight “to-night or tomorrow” to travel to Mexico via London. It is stated by British Airways that though the complainant was holding economy class, he was upgraded to ‘J Class” (Executive class) which was done with a view to compensate him of his being denied boarding and as a gesture of goodwill for the inconvenience caused to him. It has been further stated by British Airways that when in the circumstances of overbooking a passenger is denied boarding he is accommodated in a Hotel and facilities of food, drinks and telephones are provided. There was no request from the complainant for any of these facilities as it appears he left the airport. It is stated that in the alternative British Airways also paid Pound Sterling 150 as denied boarding compensation to the passengers.
We do not think that the payment of Pound Sterling 150 can only be is in the alternative. The international practice is to provide both Hotel accommodation etc. and to fly out the passengers on the first available flight and apart from that to pay compensation ranging US $ 300 to $ 400. We are of the view that a passenger who is denied boarding should be offered Hotel accommodation etc. and also paid compensation and it is not that it should be done only on his request. A passenger may decline Hotel accommodation etc. but he should be apprised of the offer.
In the present case complainant is certainly entitled to one day’s Hotel accommodation and also compensation which in our opinion Pound Sterling 200 which will be equivalent to US $ ranging between $ 300 to $ 400 should have been given. Since we have not been told as to what would be the cost of one day’s stay in a Hotel in Delhi and other charges which the passenger might have to incur, we fix a sum of Rs.5,000/- as proper expenses for that purpose. We are of the view now a sum of Rs.22,500/= as compensation will meet the ends of justice. Accordingly we allow this complaint to this extent with cost of Rs.5000/-. The amount of Rs.22,500/- would carry interest @ 12% per annum from 1.5.96 till payment.
(JUSTICE D.P. WADHWA)