60-year old Harsharan Kaur Dhaliwal from Chandigarh got a major relief for an unforgettable airline journey, after the Consumer Redressal Commission of Chandigarh asked the airlines to pay 65 lakh for the harassment meted out to her.
The complainant, a senior citizen, had suffered great mental agony and physical harassment due to re-routing and cancellation of the confirmed flights by Lufthansa German Airlines and British Airways. She was taken into custody by the Airport Police at Copenhagen (Denmark) because she was arbitrarily sent on the route, for which she did not have a visa and even a transit visa was not provided to her.
As per her complaint, she boarded flight no. LH-455 of Lufthansa Airlines from San Francisco to Frankfurt on March 19, 2018.
She boarded the flight, but it could not take off for three hours. Thereafter, she was told to de-board the flight and collect her baggage. On de-boarding, she was not provided assistance of wheel chair and it was difficult for her to locate and collect the luggage. She was left in the lurch at the airport without any assistance from the staff or Lufthansa Airlines Authorities. However, she managed to call her son to the airport and collected luggage.
Later, the Lufthansa Airlines re-routed her journey from San Francisco to New Delhi without consulting or informing her. This time, she was handed the air tickets from San Francisco to New Delhi via London on British Airways, as an alternative arrangement, vide flight no.BA-286 (flight no.1) from San Francisco to London, then by flight no.BA-820 (flight no.2) from London to Copenhagen, and then by flight no.158 of Air India (flight no.3) from Copenhagen to New Delhi and all were the connected flights.
With no option left, she accepted the re-routing for her return to India. In accordance with the alternative/re-routing plan, on 19.03.2018 at 9.35 p.m. she boarded first flight no.BA-286 from San Francisco but it arrived late at Heathrow-London airport. Due to this, she missed the connecting flight no.BA-820 from London to Copenhagen.
As per her complaint, no alternative arrangements were made for her safe return to New Delhi. Ultimately, after much persuasion, she was made to board another flight no.BA-822, which departed London at 7.05 pm. on 20.03.2018 and reached Copenhagen (Denmark) at 10.00 pm. Again there was no connecting flight to New Delhi, as per the schedule. Since the connecting flight was not available at Copenhagen (Denmark), she was stranded at the airport without proper visa.
Although it was the duty of both the airlines i.e. Lufthansa Airlines and British Airways, which re-routed her return journey, to provide transit visa for Copenhagen (Denmark), nothing was done. Even wheel chair, special diet and other basic facilities were not provided to her. She was, rather, treated as a criminal.
In her complaint, it was alleged that she was a diabetic and hypertension patient and also suffered from knee problem but was not provided any help. The airport authorities and both- Lufthansa Airlines and British Airways did not pay any heed to her prayer and request; therefore she contacted her husband in Chandigarh and apprised him of the dismay. She was unauthorizedly detained by Airport Police at Copenhagen (Denmark) for the night without her fault and was treated like a criminal. With great difficulty, her husband contacted the Ambassador concerned and with his assistance, she was released and sent to India by Turkish Airlines-TK-1784 from Copenhagen to Istanbul (Turkey) and thereafter flight TK-0716 on 21.03.2018 from Istanbul, ultimately reaching New Delhi on 22.03.2018 at 5.50 a.m.
She fell ill on her return and was treated at Fortis Hospital.
The commission ordered that in the view of irreparable loss & injury, mental harassment & agony and humiliation faced by the complainant, Lufthansa Airlines will pay Rs.37,50,000, British Airways Rs. 27,50,000 and Surya Travels & Associates will pay Rs.5 lakh. Apart from it, all the opposite parties shall share the litigation expenses to the tune of Rs. 50,000 each.