AI asked to pay over Rs 1 lakh in compensation to passenger

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National carrier Air India has been asked to cough up over Rs 1 lakh by a consumer forum as compensation with punitive damages to make its 'rude' staff 'learn a lesson' for their 'callous' service towards a flier.

"OP (Air India) is directed to pay Rs 94,776 which is rounded to Rs 95,000 to complainant No 1 within 30 days and balance Rs 10,000 within 60 days after the same is received from the salaries of concerned staff of supervising officers," the New Delhi Consumer Dispute Redressal Forum said.

Of the total compensation, the tribunal imposed Rs 25,000 as punitive damage on the airline staff posted at the Delhi airport.

"The missing of baggage was due to total negligence at Delhi Airport, on the part of its ground staff responsible for booking for which punitive damages are awarded to make Air India staff learn a lesson," a bench of C K Chaturvedi, S R Chaudhary and Asha Kumar said, blaming the insensitivity of the staff on the lack of supervision by superior officers.

It also imposed Rs 10,000 as punitive damages for callous attitude of staff at Kolkata Airport. The airline has also been directed to place an action taken report (ATR) in 3 months before the court after probing the role of AI staff at Delhi and Kolkata airports and recover the sum of Rs 5,000 from salaries of the officials concerned.

The order came on a complaint by P K Agarwal, a retired IAS officer of the rank of Additional Chief Secretary in the West Bengal government. Agarwal in his complaint said he was to travel to Kolkata from here with his wife on March 11 last year on an Air India flight.

He encountered a delay of 40 minutes in getting the boarding pass due to inexperienced staff at the desk and the pass was wrongly marked due to which they were not allowed to board the flight.

After this issue was sorted, the plane was delayed by 45 minutes due to some technical snag. When they reached Kolkata, their luggage was untraceable and there was no airline staff at the arrival desk to help them.

Following a complaint, the staff arrived but allegedly misbehaved with them. Their attempts to trace the luggage led to harassment and they had to purchase essentials before coming back to Delhi on March 13.

The luggage was delivered to Agarwal on March 15 after a complaint was made to the MD & Chairman, Air India. Agarwal said he received a reply to his legal notice from the national carrier on June 7 where all his allegations were denied and he was accused of attempting to extract undue monetary benefits.

"The whole case of the complainant is about callousness and insensitivities to duties of OP's (Air India) staff at Delhi and Kolkata airports. The OP is a government corporation and, in fact, showcase glimpse of India's governance, to all who interfere with government airlines on arrival in India, or local tourist, availing its services," the bench said.

The airlines ground staff should never be found wanting when it comes to providing helping hand to its passengers, whether it is a public holiday or not, the bench said. Air India only filed a written reply to the complainant and its attitude was described as "shameful" by the forum.

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