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The case of Pallav Mongia v. Union of India & Anr., decided on 2nd February, 2018 by the Delhi High Court, is one of denied aircraft boarding after confirmation of tickets.

The petitioner had challenged paragraph 3.2 of the Civil Aviation Requirement (hereinafter “CAR”), which deals with denied boarding. The petitioner, in the instant case, was denied aircraft boarding from Delhi to Patna due to overbooking of flights despite the petitioner booking the tickets well in advance and reaching the airport on time.

Paragraph 3.2 of CAR makes a provision for voluntary giving up of seats by the passengers where the number of passengers who have been given confirmed bookings for travel and who have reported for the flight well within the specified time ahead of the departure of the flight, exceed the number of seats available.

It also provides for compensation to passengers who have been denied boarding against their will.

It is stated therein that this practice of overbooking of flight to a limited extent is followed by the airlines to reduce the possibility of flights departing with unoccupied or empty seats because of ‘no shows’ by passengers having booked tickets.

Paragraph 3.5 of CAR stipulates financial compensation to the passenger in cases where the passenger has been denied boarding against his will. It also offers the passengers the choice between the following kinds of compensation:

  1. Refund of air ticket at the price it was purchased
  2. A flight to the first point of departure
  3. Alternate transportation under comparable/alternate mode of transport (whenever applicable), to the final destination.
  4. Alternate transportation under comparable/alternate mode of transport (whenever applicable), to the final destination at a later date at the passenger’s convenience, subject to availability of seats.

The petitioner had challenged the jurisdiction of the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to issue the impugned Civil Aviation Requirement and also questioned the scope of the same in as much as it restricted the amount/options of compensation to be awarded to a passenger. The Delhi High Court held that not permitting a passenger holding confirmed tickets to board a flight would definitely amount to deficiency of service for which the passenger is entitled to seek compensation/damages. The CAR does not limit the scope of compensation and the passenger is well within his rights to move against the defaulting airlines for seeking compensation. Holding the petition as misconceived, the Delhi High Court deemed it unnecessary to examine the question whether the DGCA had the jurisdiction to issue the CAR.

The Delhi High Court ruled that “a plain reading of paragraph 3.2 indicates that the DGCA has recognized that certain airlines follow the practice of overbooking of flight; however, the same cannot be read to mean that the DGCA has permitted the airlines to do so. And, it certainly cannot mean that such practice has the sanction of law.”

The Delhi High Court concurred with the suggestion of the learned counsel for Air India that it is open for the petitioner to seek fair compensation from Air India, as has been done in many a cases before the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission against various airlines.

 

Surabhi Aggarwal

Senior Associate

The Indian Lawyer

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