NCDRC: Flyers stuck at airport have right to free food, stay

The NCDRC has ruled that passengers have the right to food, refreshment and accommodation if they are stuck at the airport due to a delayed flight. 
 
In its judgement, the NCDRC held that air carriers which do not cater to basic needs of travellers such as food and water during flight delays are deficient in service. 
 
The case goes back to 2013 when five senior citizens had faced a severe ordeal during their travel. The Commission has directed that they should be given Rs 30000 per person compensation while noting that passengers have “the right to food, refreshment and accommodation” in case they are stuck due to flight delays.
 
The bench of Dr S M Kanitkar highlighted that countless passengers face difficulties while booking the tickets. The websites of airline companies, it said, allured travellers with “misleading offers, low fares etc but factually show sudden surge while completing the process of online ticket booking”. The airline websites entice customers with “misleading offers, low fares etc” but when completing the process of online ticket booking the prices suddenly seem to surge. 
 
The carriers impose a huge cancellation fee which is about 80%  of the fare and “refunded peanuts to helpless customers. Dr Kanitkar said “The consumers are harassed by such misleading advertisements, unfair and deceptive practices of airline co.”
 
Five senior citizens moved the consumer commission accusing SpiceJet of not providing food and water despite a delay of almost four hours while travelling from Ahmedabad to Goa in 2013. The commission observed that given their age, all five passengers should have been treated with kid’s gloves but they had a harrowing time without food, water and comfort. 
 
He added “The carrier must provide the passengers with meals and refreshments during the delay as well as access to communication. The most frustrating experience of many travelers is that no airline official is available to give passengers correct picture of the situation”.
 
The airline denied the allegations and cited a provision of the Carriage by Air Act, 1972 submitting if the flight is delayed due to bad weather or circumstances beyond its control then the carrier could not be held responsible. The five persons were initially compensated with Rs 30000 by a consumer forum but the state commission modified the amount reducing it to Rs 15000. Dr Kanitkar, however, observed that it was only fair to compensate the senior citizens with Rs 30000.
 
The commission added “Air travel is not always the smooth-sailing experience everyone would like. Most customers have had a bad experience and frequently faced difficulties while accessing the customer care services”.

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