Consumer court settles seven year old case against Air Arabia airline for losing Ankit Bhatnagar’s luggage that led to him missing his spot as a seaman on a ship
Ankit lost his two bags at the airport, but they were returned to him in 48 hours. Representation pic/Thinkstock
Ankit Bhatnagar was all set to sail and embark on his new apprenticeship aboard a ship in 2010. If only, he was able to actually board it. Unfortunately for him though, flying as he was through Air Arabia, his luggage was lost and he missed his opportunity.
Now, 7 years later, after battling it out in the consumer court, justice is in sight as he been awarded a compensation of R2.5 lakh for the mental harassment.
The trouble brews
On July 29, 2010, Bhatnagar was accepted to the Nautical Science diploma course, approved by the Tasmania University; the course fee for which was a non-refundable Rs 6,25,000. As part of the course, on July 11, 2011, he was recruited as a seaman with a stipend of Rs 18,000/- per month aboard the MV Lao Yakut, that was docked at Beirut.
As per the schedule, Bhatnagar booked a ticket with Air Arabia to fly on July 19, 2011 on the Mumbai -Beirut sector via Sharjah. To that end, the Lebanese government had issued him a 24-hour transit visa.
However, when Bhatnagar disembarked at Beirut, he discovered that both his checked in bags - containing his course material, books, and DLP kits required during the period on the ship - had been lost.
He lodged a complaint for loss of luggage, but could not join the authorised personnel sent by the ship. To add woe to misery, since Bhatnagar thought that he only had the 24-hour transit visa, at the expiry of which he would be arrested, so he boarded a return flight to Mumbai instead.
Case in consumer court
On his return, he filed the case in the consumer court, which stated, “The entire episode of loss of luggage has caused irreparable loss. I lost the golden opportunity to join the ship which was a part of training and for which I paid non-refundable fees of R6,25,000, aside from many other expenses such as cost of air tickets, conveyance to attend fitness test, interview, etc.”
He added that the loss of luggage due to extreme negligence has thus meant loss of educational opportunity, loss of employment, loss of precious time, immense mental agony, emotional trauma and intense fear of being put behind bars in an alien country. For all of this, Bhatnagar claimed he be compensated with Rs 19,70,200.
However, in the written arguments, Air Arabia denied all the allegations and said, “Complaint is false, frivolous and filed to gain undue publicity and to extort money by misusing the process of law.” Air Arabia also claimed that the lost bags were returned within two days.
Ruling in favour
The court, presided over by Judge SD Madake and member SV Kalal, of the Additional Consumer Redressal Forum, Mumbai suburban district observed, “The complainant claimed R6,25,000 towards non-refundable fees paid to academy, due to missing baggage. This claim is not tenable as complainant failed to prove that missing of bag is the main cause for loss of education. The main issue is whether complainant was justified in stopping his education for a bag missing for 48 hours. However, the parents of the complainant were subjected to harassment after noting the horrible condition of their son, who was sent to pursue higher studies by spending this huge sum.”
To that end, The court found Air Arabia guilty and passed an order stating, “After careful consideration, we quantify the amount of compensation for mental agony caused to complainant and his parents to the amount of Rs 2,50,000.”