Indigo ordered to pay compensation for boarding denial

The facts in brief are that the Complainant purchased confirmed Air Tickets on 24.11.2012 for his journey from Kolkata to Chennai by flight No. 6E 271 on 16.12.2012 at 6:30 a.m. and Flight No. 6E 277 from Chennai to Kolkata on 18.12.2012 at 8:30 p.m. These tickets were purchased by using International Debit and Shopping Card of State Bank of India and an amount of 9,140/- was debited from the Complainant’s account. On the scheduled date of journey i.e. 16.12.2012, the Complainant had reported in time at the check in counter of Indigo at Kolkata Airport, produced the relevant journey ticket together with his photo ID card for issuance of the boarding pass. But Indigo personnel did not issue the boarding pass for flight No. 6E 271 on the ground that in addition to the mandatory requirement of Photo ID Card and the journey ticket, he had to produce his credit card by which his ticket was purchased. The Complainant was shocked with such a stand taken by Indigo and appealed to them that he does not have any credit card and the tickets were purchased by International Debit and Shopping Card and not through credit card and to issue the boarding pass. Indigo showed a clause incorporated in the ticket stating ‘customers who have paid for the booking using credit cards are additionally required to present the credit card or a photocopy of the same at the time of check in’. Though the Complainant requested that the tickets were purchased through debit card and hence cannot produce a credit card, which he did not possess, Indigo personnel did not adhere to his request and insisted that he should produce a credit card which he did not have. They did not consider the debit card, which was placed before them by the Complainant and did not issue the boarding pass. Hence the Complainant was forced to stay back at Kolkata and his return journey had to be cancelled. Thereafter an amount of 5,620/- was also deducted and an amount of 3,520/- was withheld which could be adjusted for any further journey to be undertaken within 12 months.

Indigo filed their Written Version stating that the Complaint should be dismissed at the threshold as the Complainant did no adhere to the “Conditions of Carriage” which constituted a binding contract between the Complainant and Indigo. All the bookings generated for Indigo’s flight are governed by Indigo’s fare rules and Conditions of Carriage and it is pertinent to mention herein that Indigo Conditions of Carriage that are available from Airport Counters or as stated above are contractually binding upon the parties. The relevant terms of the said “Conditions of Carriage” as on the date of booking are reproduced hereunder:

IndiGo accepts Master Card, American Express and VISA at the Indigo call centre, on our Website, and . Customers should carry the credit card, or a copy of the credit card duly signed by the card holder, at the time of check-in.

The District Forum based on the evidence adduced dismissed the Complaint.

Aggrieved by the said order the Complainant preferred an Appeal before the State Commission, which was allowed observing as follows:

“No doubt, airline officials are mandated to implement airline/aviation rules to their true perspective. However, in the name of implementing such rules, if on resorts to excesses, thereby cause inconvenience to bona fide passengers, that is not acceptable.

Here, the issue was far far serious –thanks to the unyielding zeal of Duty Officers, a bona fide passenger could not undertake his scheduled journey which ostensibly put a spanner to all his planning besides causing financial loss to him.

The question survives, whether such rigidity on the part of airline officials was all that so necessary. We do not think so. The ticket was purchased nearly a month ago. In case requisite money did not reach the airline’s coffers, it would certainly be detected by then resulting in cancellation of the tickets and system information got updated accordingly. That the system did not denote any adverse remark itself was testimony of the fact that payment was successfully made by the Appellant through his debit card. That apart, merely by having a glimpse of the credit card or photocopy thereof, one cannot instantly figure out, whether payment had been successfully made or not. There was virtually no need to make a mountain out of a molehill.

Debarring a passenger from boarding aircraft is a serious matter, which requires extreme caution and sensitive handling of the matter. One cannot be debarred from boarding a flight at the drop of a hat.

It was a confirmed ticket. From the voter I-Card, the identity of the Appellant got established. Since there was no adverse remark in the system, it was obvious that payment was not an issue. Despite all these, such inflexibility on the part of airline officials was totally uncalled for.

It requires no emphasis that to err is human. It is needed sad, although it became apparent that Appellant’s ignorance resulted in such goof up and that it was not intentional, Officials of the Respondent still refused to relent. Being human being, officials or Respondent cannot always approach issues from mechanical perspective; lest it impart gross injustice to a bona fide passenger.

As it turns out, because of the irrational attitude of the officials of Respondent, a bonafide passenger was deprived of this legitimate due. The Respondent, thus, cannot shrink its responsibility for the harassment, mental stress and agony, financial loss of the Appellant.

We, therefore, deem it fit and proper to allow this Appeal.”

IndiGo filed a Revision Petition in the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, New Delhi and vehemently contended that the State Commission has erred in not appreciating that the Complainant did not comply with the mandatory check in requirements as per Indigo Conditions of Carriage by not producing the debit card or signed copy thereof through which the booking was made. He further argued that for reasons best known to the Complainant, he had failed to produce the debit card or a copy thereof and that an amount of 3,520/- was already refunded to the Complainant and hence there was no deficiency of service on their behalf. Learned counsel also drew our attention to the subject ticket which shows the details regarding purchase of tickets using credit cards as hereunder:

“Customers who have paid for their bookings using credit cards are additionally required to present the credit card or a photocopy of the credit card at the time of check-in.”

The NCDRC observed that the endorsement “CC not verified” clearly substantiates the stand of the Complainant that a Credit Card was indeed insisted upon when the ticket was purchased by a debit card and he did not even possess a credit card for him to have furnished the same to Indigo personnel. Such a rigid attitude of the personnel to a bonafide passenger and further when admittedly the Complainant made genuine efforts to settle the issue by mediation, the conduct of Indigo in deducting 5620/- and refunding 3520/- after six months is deprecated. It is strongly recommended that the Airlines display the instructions regarding production of photocopy of the credit/ debit card in the event of booking of tickets made by credit card/ debit card, prominently at the Check-In Counter and also keep the passengers, who purchase the tickets online, specifically informed, in order to avoid causing any inconvenience or mental agony by denying a bonafide passenger, his or her Boarding Pass.

After going through the material on record, the Apex body dismissed the Revision Petition filed by IndiGo and held that Indigo personnel refused to consider the debit card, which the Complainant had with him and had unfairly not allowed him to board the flight whereby, causing mental agony and inconvenience to the Complainant, who wanted to fulfil his commitment of going to Tirupati at a particular auspicious time to complete his ‘Mannat”, for which the State Commission has rightly awarded a reasonable compensation of 50,000/- and refund of the amount paid. We do not see any illegality or infirmity in the order of the State Commission and hence this Revision Petition is dismissed with cost of 10,000/- to be paid to the Complainant.

Pratyush Chowdhury Vs. Interglobe Aviation Ltd. & 2 ORS.

(Against the Order dated 27/12/2017 in Appeal No. 1367/2015 of the State Commission West Bengal)

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