IInd ADDL. DISTRICT CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL FORUM, BANGALORE URBAN
No.1/7, Swathi Complex, 4th Floor, Seshadripuram, Bangalore-560 020
consumer case(CC) No. CC/2035/2008
Mrs. Vidya Kumar Rao
Miss Divya Deepthi
Date of Filing:17.09.2008 Date of Order:23.03.2009 BEFORE THE II ADDITIONAL DISTRICT CONSUMER DISPUTES REDRESSAL FORUM SESHADRIPURAM BANGALORE-20 Dated: 23RD DAY OF MARCH 2009 PRESENT Sri S.S. NAGARALE, B.A, LL.B. (SPL.), President. Smt. D. LEELAVATHI, M.A.LL.B, Member. Sri BALAKRISHNA. V. MASALI, B.A, LL.B. (SPL.), Member.
COMPLAINT NO: 2035 OF 2008 1. Mrs. Vidya Kumar Rao, 40/41, 2nd Main, B.T.M. Layout, Bangalore 560 076. 2. Miss. Divya Deepthi, 505, 15 D Main, Sector-4, H.S.R. Layout, Bangalore. Complainant
1. Air France, 21, Ulsoor Road, Ground Floor, Bangalore 560 095. 2. Air France, 8th Floor, Lower-C, Bldg # 8, DLF Cyber City, Phase 2, Gurgaon. Opposite Parties
ORDER By the President Sri. S.S. Nagarale
The brief facts of the case are that, the complainants were traveling from USA to Bangalore via (CDG Paris) on 14/08/2008. Complainant No.1 traveled from Washington DC, USA on Air France Flight No. AF 025, and complainant No.2 traveled from New York to Paris on AF 007. Both were to connect to Bangalore from Paris by flight No. AF 192. Since both flight from USA arrived several hours late at Paris, the connecting flight had already departed for Bangalore hence their journey was interrupted for nearly 24 hours. During their stay at Paris Airport for nearly 22 hours, they were denied proper accommodation, no effort was made to provide us food on time and even a calling card was not made available. Complainant No.1 is a diabetic and need to take medicines prior to timely meals and was running fever and cold. No help was provided inspite of informing the ground staff of the appalling situation. They have lodged a formal complaint with the opposite parties and received a casual reply. The copies of communication exchanged with the opposite parties along with the tickets. Hence, the complainants have sought compensation of Rs. 5,00,000/- each for mental agony and harassment.
2. Notice issued to opposite parties through RPAD. Notice served. Opposite parties appeared through counsel and filed defense version stating that, the complaint pertains to delay during the return journey from Washington D.C and New York to Bangalore on 14th August-2008. The complainants were to catch the connecting flight from Paris to Bangalore on 15th August 2008 at Charles De Gaulle Airport. The flights of the complainants from Washington D.C and New York respectively on 14th August 2008 were delayed due to the bad weather and furthermore due to the Air Traffic Restrictions, which prohibit operation of flights in such weather conditions for the safety of passengers, crew and aircrafts. When clearance was eventually granted it was not viable for the aircraft to first refuel even though a significant amount of jet fuel had been consumed, the aircraft also required clearance to land in Paris and would have been subject to a wait for clearance by A.T.C in Paris.
As a result of the foregoing, the flight of complainant No.1 required refueling and was rerouted through Nantes Airport for refueling to maintain sufficient fuel reserves, on its way to Charles De Gualle Airport in Paris. The report of the bad weather conditions and the resultant delay of flights in different parts of USA are given in all bulletins of the answering opposite parties. As a result of the above facts, the flights of the complainants from Washington D.C and New York reached Paris late and the complainants were not able to catch their connecting flight from Paris to Bangalore. It is pertinent to note that the staff of opposite parties had made every attempt to accommodate the complainants on another flight of the same day to fly them to Bangalore, but they were not successful.
Complainants were provided food coupons and for their accommodation bookings were made at Hotel Companile and IBIS Ville Hotel respectively just adjacent to the Paris Airport. The complainants have not have any grievance against the opposite parties as the delay of the flights was caused by the bad weather conditions prevailing over the east coast USA and consequent air traffic control directions and restrictions, which affect the safety of the passengers and aircraft. The complainants seem to have been wrongly advised to take legal action and the complainants accordingly issued letters dated 26h August 2008 asking for compensation arising out of alleged uncomfortable situation in Paris. In view of the foregoing facts, the present complaint is liable to be dismissed with costs.
3. Affidavit evidences are filed. Arguments are heard.
4. The points for consideration are:- 1. Whether there was any deficiency in service on the part of the opposite parties? 2. Whether the complainants are entitled for compensation?
5. The complainants have fairly submitted that they are not arguing for flight delay aspect of the case. The delay was related to weather condition. It is an admitted case of the opposite parties that there was delay of 22 hours due to bad weather conditions prevailing over the east-coast of USA and due to the air traffic restrictions, which prohibit operation of flights in such weather conditions for the safety of the passengers, crewe and aircraft. It is also admitted fact that as a result of delay the flights of the complainants from Washington DC and New York reached Paris late and the complainants were not able to catch their connecting flight from Parris to Bangalore.
The complainants fairly submitted that they were not contesting the matter on the point of delay aspect. The main grievance of the complainants is, during their stay at Parris Airport which was for nearly 22 hours and they were not provided proper accommodation for their stay and rest and no effort was made by the Airline Authority to provide proper food on time. Calling card was not made available to inform the family back in Bangalore to let them know the inordinate delay of nearly one day. The complainants have submitted that Miss. Vidya Kumar Rao is a diabetic and needs to take medicines prior to timely meals and second complainant Miss.Divya Deepthi was running fever and cold. No help was provided to them in spite of informing the matter to ground staff. The complainants have submitted that they were treated during 22 hours of their stay at Paris Airport very badly and no lunch was offered even though they were in Airport around 12-00 noon. Food coupons were issued for dinner after waiting nearly 8 hours. The complainants have also submitted that a frugal slice of pizza, an apple and soft drink were provided for dinner. Similarly for breakfast that was provided the next day morning consisted of croissant and a cup of coffee. The complainants submitted that this was a total food provided for them for an entire period of 22 hours. It is further argued by the first complainant in person that they had to spend sitting, the entire duration of 22 hours on the Airport chairs. Even there were no reclining chairs to stretch.
The Airline failed to provide hotel accommodation for the reasons best known to them. It is argued that Airlines are obliged to get Visa for over night stay and there is no mandatory requirement that passengers should have Visa for all transit points enroot. Miss. Vidya Kumar Rao argued that Air France had not informed this matter at the time of booking the tickets. It is submitted by the complainant that passports were collected around 12-30 P.M from them and they were returned to them around 8-00 P.M with the explanation that Visas are not obtainable and during this long wait they were not even up dated with the developments and they were just ignored.
It is argued by the learned counsel for the opposite party that complainants were provided food coupons and for their accommodations bookings were made at Hotel Campanile and IBIS Ville Hotel just adjacent to the Parris Airport. But the Hotel bookings were subject to issuance of necessary Visas by the French (Immigration) Police. Unfortunately, the opposite party has failed to obtain or to get the required Visa from the concerned authorities. Therefore, admittedly the complainants were not taken to Hotel booked for their stay and rest. For this the complainants cannot be blamed.
Not providing hotel accommodation is definitely a deficiency in service on the part of the opposite party. Secondly, the complaints were absolutely dissatisfied with the food provided to them at the Airport. Admittedly, the complainants have to wait for 22 hours in the Airport without rest and comfortable stay and with a frugal food.
The learned counsel for the opposite party argued that the complainants should not have any grievance on the aspect of delay which was caused by the bad weather conditions prevailing over the east-coast of USA and consequent air control directions and restrictions.
This is fairly admitted by the complainants. The complainants submitted that they are not contesting the matter on the delay aspect which was due to weather conditions. Therefore, it is unnecessary for me to discuss the point of delay. The only grievance of the complainants is that there was no proper accommodation, no effort was made to provide food on time and no arrangement was made to contact their family members in Bangalore and calling card was not made available. Miss. Vidya Kumar Rao is a diabetic and need to take medicine timely and second complainant Miss.
Divya Deepthi was running fever and cold, no help was provided to them in spite of the matter was informed to the ground staff of the opposite party. Therefore, the way in which the treatment was received from the hands of the opposite party they are complaining and sought suitable compensation.
The Hon’ble National Commission in a case between Lufthansa German Airlines Vs. Rish Bajoria & Ors reported in I (2007) CPJ 333 (NC) it has been held as under:- “Failure to serve proper, healthy and safe meal fit for human consumption during flight-Good number of broken glass particles embedded in food articles-Food totally unfit for consumption-Deficiency in service proved-Health and life of passengers put in jeopardy by serving glass pieces embedded in meal-O.P.liable-Award of Rs.5,00,000 compensation upheld.
(Appeal Dismissed) Held that, the learned Counsel for the appellant submits that the provisions of Section 13 of the Consumer Protection Act, 1986 had not been satisfied. In this regard we would not like to make the Consumer Protection Act altogether ineffective by extending rather stretching these provisions by adopting a hyper-technical approach.
Secondly, Section 13(2) (b) provides for the procedure where the matter relates to complaint relating to goods in respect of which procedure specified in Sub-section(1) cannot be followed, or if the complaint relates to any service prescribed in Sections 13(2)(a) and 12(2)(b). Consequently, this hyper-technical submission has to be rejected for the reasons mentioned hereinabove. Now coming to the quantum of compensation, there could not be any dispute that a person who is traveling by air would certainly need meal and meal would mean standard, healthy, and safe meal, which would satisfy the basic condition that it should be fit for human consumption.
Consumption of glass pieces embedded meal could have caused any injury either at the time of eating the same or subsequently by causing scratches in food pipe, abdomen and intestine and it could lead to death of either of these complainants. If by certain omission/negligence food served to the four complainants did contain glass pieces then they would naturally expect injury in the food pipe, abdomen and intestine, due scratches and bleeding, etc. on account of presence of broken glass pieces in the meal. It would have certainly caused extreme anxiety and would have kept the complainants/respondents scared on one hand, leave apart they had to remain without food till they reached the destination.
The compensation has to be commensurate with the scare, anxiety, mental pain and agony as well as injury, in the circumstances in which the meals were served. Each one of the four complainants paid Rs.1,02,178 which included cost of the meal. The food could not be replaced due to non-availability. The four complainants remained without food till they reached Frankfurt. Their health and life was put in jeopardy by serving glass pieces embedded meal and they had just escaped injury by skin of their teeth. Naturally, it would have caused mental agony and anxiety if any piece of glass had gone into food pipe. The respondents/complainants by paying huge sums on tickets wanted to purchase comfortable air travel coupled with other incidental services. They had neither purchased glass pieces embedded meals coupled with consequential mental agony, anxiety and scare, nor purchased compelling fasting and starvation by going without meals. In the aforesaid, compensation if not exemplary, could not be flea bite compensation”.
6. In view of the above authority of law failure to serve proper healthy meal by the Airlines amounts to deficiency in service. In this case also, the complainants have been left at their destiny and resources without proper attending to their needs by the Airlines though complainant informed the ground staff that she is a diabetic patient and needs medicine and proper timely food. Therefore, without discussing much the complaint deserves to be suitably compensated. The complainants prayed for grant of compensation of Rs. 5,00,000/- against the opposite party for the harassment, mental agony and inconvenience caused to them. On the facts and circumstances of the case, the compensation claimed by the complainants is exaggerated one.
There is no legal basis or foundation to claim such an exaggerated amount as compensation. However, the fact remains that the complainants have been put to mental agony, tension and inconvenience since they were made to wait for 22 hours in the Airport. This is a sufficient ground to compensate the complainants. On the facts and circumstances of the case, the ends of justice will be met in awarding Rs.20,000/- each to the complainants as compensation. In the result, I proceed to pass the following:-
7. The Complaint is allowed. The opposite party Air France is directed to pay Rs.20,000/- each to the complainant No.1 and 2 as compensation within 30 days from the date of this order. In the event of non compliance of the order within 30 days the said amount carries interest at 10% p.a from the date of this order till payment/realisation. 8. The parties to bear their own costs.