‘Issue orders to discontinue illegal charging of amount on cancellation of air tickets’

Jagpreet Singh Sandhu
The judgment was passed on September 6. (Representative Image)

The Chandigarh Consumer Forum asked the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, New Delhi, for proper consideration on issue of illegal charging of amount by airlines on cancellation and modification of air-tickets, and to issue orders to airlines to discontinue the unfair trade practice and not to repeat them.

While releasing the judgment on September 6, the bench of Priti Malhotra (Presiding Member) and Ravinder Singh (Member), observed that …The public transport like buses, railways have fixed rate of charges/fare, but unfortunately the airlines have indulged in charging heavy fares taking benefit of helplessness on the part of needy inpiduals…The Airlines have high bargaining power, unquestionable stature, have no consideration for the just and legal rights of the innocent public/travelers…

The judgment was passed following case filed by Gautam Dutt of Chandigarh, against Cleartrip, an online travel firm and Go Airlines. Dutt had alleged that on April 13, 2018, he booked a flight from Bangalore to Pune on July 14, 2018, for Rs 1,721 on Cleartrip. However, on April 14, Dutt cancelled ticket for refund. But when he did not get any refund, he was told by Cleartrip that the booking was still active on their site and was not cancelled. Dutt again made a cancellation on the site and on May 12, he received a mail from Cleartrip mentioning Rs 0 as refund. As per refund receipt from Go Airlines, they had charged Rs 1166 as cancellation charges, whereas the ticket was quoted as refundable when booked. On the other hand, Rs 683 which was refunded by Airlines, was zeroed by the Cleartrip.

Cleartrip in reply submitted that it merely provides a platform for booking of flight tickets and actual service provider are the Airline, whereas while booking of the air-ticket, Dutt received a cash back discount of Rs 400 and it has deducted an amount of Rs 250 towards the cancellation charges and Rs 270 as convenience charges and has also reversed the cash back discount of Rs 400, thus in total nil refund amount has been processed to Dutt. On the other hand, Go Airlines in reply submitted that the ticket in question was not refundable as the same was offered to the complainant at a special price, so there was no question of refund.

The forum after perusing ticket produced during trial held the ticket was refundable, and it means that in case of cancellation of ticket, traveler is entitled for refund of the amount of booking. The confiscation of the whole of the amount of Rs 1,721 which the complainant has paid for the ticket despite the ticket being refundable, is against established canon of law.

…due to emergence of Online booking system, the scenario of fairness had almost extinguished…Even if a person while booking the ticket Online for a particular destination by mistake fills a wrong date or date and opt for it, but just after getting the ticket if he realizes and try to correct the mistake and got a proper ticket, he is bound to suffer great loss of money by way of cancellation charges… , read the judgment.

…Airlines often overbook their flights and keep their portals open for booking of ticket even till departure of the flight, the forum observed adding that sometimes aged passengers who wait for hours at the boarding gate after the check-in and security clearance are told that the flight has been cancelled due to technical snag and they have to come back the next day.

The Airlines are often seen to cancel their flight on one account or the other, either it is on account of technical snag due to poor maintenance of their aircraft or due to some extraneous & lame excuses i.e. climate conditions etc., but they refused to own responsibility on one pretext or the other, the forum said.

The bench thus said that the regulatory authorities have failed to consider these issues in the right perspective, rather endorsed the unfair and exploitative modalities of the Airlines especially regarding refund of amount of passenger, and when the airlines authority and the regulatory authorities concerned failed to come to the rescue of the public in protecting their rights, then definitely judicial hierarchy while discharging judicial or quasi- judicial functions have to come forward to protect the rights of inpiduals.

Thus directing the Cleartrip, and Go Airlines to refund Rs 1721, with Rs 5,000 litigation cost, the Forum also ordered to sent a copy of order to the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India, New Delhi as well as to Directorate General of Civil Aviation, New Delhi, for issuing orders to airlines.