The Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission recently ordered Kuwait Airways to pay ₹6 lakh compensation to a passenger who was denied boarding on an onward flight to London despite having a valid ticket, visa and boarding pass.
A quorum of President Justices Sangeeta Dhingra and members the pink And JP Aggarwal Its order stated,
“Denying a person boarding a plane is nothing short of cruel, inhumane and oppressive as it causes immense emotional pain, physical discomfort, humiliation and emotional trauma that stays with the person for the rest of their lives. It results in almost injustice to a person through no fault of theirs.”
Complainant Shamim Uddin had booked a Kuwait Airways ticket for a Delhi-Kuwait-London flight in February 2019. However, after reaching Kuwait, the airline did not allow him to board the flight to London. “Poor Profile,” In consultation with the Airline Liaison Office (ALO). This ALO was the UK Embassy representative at Kuwait International Airport for the countries of Kuwait, Bahrain, Qatar and Saudi Arabia.
The man later bought an Indian Airlines ticket and traveled to Birmingham, UK without any problems. He later filed a case against Kuwait Airways, demanding ₹55 lakh as compensation for harassment and service deficiency on the part of the airline.
The Commission observed that it is the duty of the carrier to take reasonable care of the passenger, so that he is not subjected to such humiliation, unreasonable harassment and mental anguish.
It also noted that the airline failed to show adequate reasons for refusing to allow the complainant to board the onward flight. Further, while the complainant had obtained US and UK visas multiple times, it is not possible that his profile suddenly turned bad and otherwise great in Kuwait, the order said.
“A perusal of the record reveals that the opposite parties have failed to give any reasonable cause/deportation order as promised to the complainant at Delhi airport counter, despite his repeated requests. It is amazing how a reputed international airline can board a passenger and then refuse to board a connecting flight midway through his journey without any supporting documents to explain the reason for taking such drastic action.“
To make matters worse, the complainant was treated inhumanely by the airline staff, who threatened her, asked her indecent questions and did not allow her to use the washroom, the order noted.
The forum held that ALOs in foreign jurisdictions have no authority or jurisdiction to compel an airline not to carry passengers.
“It is clear that the ALO can only advise on passenger documentation but the final decision to carry or not to carry a passenger rests solely with the airline. Therefore, in the present case, the submission of the opposite party that they have received advice from the ALO of the UK Embassy that the complainant cannot be carried is without merit and in view of the above-mentioned guidelines,” The commission commented.
It also took into account the argument that the airline had overbooked seats in anticipation of high sales during the fair season and then blamed ALO for hiding their high profits, which was an unfair trade practice.
The commission ordered the airline to pay ₹5 lakh as compensation to the complainant, holding that denying boarding to a passenger without assigning sufficient reasons amounts to a deficiency in service. An additional ₹50,000 was ordered to be paid to each complainant for litigation costs and mental anguish.
Advocate Mahmood Alam appeared for Shamim Uddin and Advocate Deepika Gupta appeared for Kuwait Airways.