Commission President Barkat Ali Zaidi and Member Salma Noor accepted the plea of Deepak Kumar Chaudhary, a Delhi resident employed in Abu Dhabi, that the airline's failure to fly him to his destination cost him his 11 days' wages.
"Once a ticket has been booked by a consumer, it is the duty of the airline to provide the transit unless it is inhibited for reasons beyond its control," Zaidi said.
"The airline has to realise the inconvenience the passenger suffers on the cancellation of the flight, and it becomes the duty of the airline to provide alternative arrangements which the airline in this case failed to do," Zaidi said.
The commission told the airline to pay damages of Rs.97,628 towards Chaudhary's wage loss and Rs.10,000 as compensation.
The commission rejected Air India's bid to blame Chaudhary for the problem. The airline contended that he had not got his return journey confirmed 72 hours in advance but he claimed the flight was cancelled due to non-availability of aircraft.
Pulling up Air India for the sudden cancellation of the flight, Zaidi said: "Chaudhary had come on leave from Dubai to India along with his return journey confirmed ticket for Nov 23, 2007, the flight time being at 8.55 p.m."
"Chaudhary contacted the airline on phone on Nov 23, at about 4 p.m. and the airline after enquiring his name and the ticket number, informed him that the flight will take off at 8.30 p.m. in place of 8.55 p.m., but when he reached the airport, the airline informed him that the flight was cancelled," the commission noted in its order.
Chaudhary said in his complaint that his employer - Dodsal Engineering, Procurement and Construction Pvt. Ltd. in Abu Dhabi - cut his wages for 11 days (Rs. 97,628) as he could not rejoin duty on time on the morning of Nov 24, 2007. He was also not offered a seat on any other flight.
"The liability of Air India may not be absolute and may be diluted on the ground for reasons beyond control. The reason given by the airline for cancellation of the flight just before two-and-a-half hours of its flying was that of operational reason," the commission said.
"It has not been elaborated as to what the operation reason was, and the reason furnished by the airline is not only obscure but incomplete. That means that no proper reasons were given by the airline for the cancellation of the flight," Zaidi said.
"There is nothing in the explanation offered from the side of Air India, which may indicate their inability to transport the booked passengers, including Chaudhary, for the reasons beyond their control. They are, therefore, to be held liable for damages and the district consumer forum was therefore wholly justified in the award made by them," the commission said.
Air India now has the option of challenging the state consumer commission's decision in the national consumer commission.
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