KOCHI: The Permanent Lok Adalat in Ernakulam has directed Air India to pay a compensation of Rs.35,000 each to an elderly couple for the appallingly poor service rendered by the national carrier.
It was on a petition from the aggrieved couple-- P S Sidhan and K N Valasala from Palluruthy--who endured the hardship while en route from Kochi to Charlotte via JFK International Airport in New York that the Lok Adalat Bench issued the order.
According to the petitioners, the AI flight had landed in New Delhi well before the scheduled connection flight to New York. However,the onward flight to New York was delayed by over six hours. And by the time the aircraft landed at JFK International Airport-- not before the passengers had to spent a harrowing 24 hours confined to their seats-- the US Airways connection flight which Air India arranged for the journey of the petitioners to Charlotte was already airborne.
With hardly any AI staff to guide them in the arrival hall to the transfer desk of Air India, the petitioners were left in the lurch.
The couple stated that at the time of check- in at Kochi, Air India ground staff had promised them that the check-in baggage will reach Charlotte without any delay. They were also informed that Air India staff would receive them at the arrival hall and make necessary arrangements for the connection flight. However, this was hardly the case. The petitioners could not contact their son, who was waiting for them at Charlotte Airport as they did not have any international roaming SIM card with them.
The petitioners argued that the deficiency of service included the delay occurred which was not properly conveyed to them and no adequate arrangements were made to receive them resulting in mental agony and damages and sought `five lakh each as compensation.
Air India submitted that the reason for delay was completely beyond the control of the airline.
The Lok Adalat Bench comprising Chairman S Jagadees and Members C Radhakrishnan and P G Gopi held that the couple suffered physical as well as mental strain since they were confined inside a closed aircraft without even air conditioning. Because of the delay they had missed the connection flight from New York.
The Bench held that the couple were forced to shell out $90 which they were not bound to pay.