Ambala District Commission Finds Air India Responsible for Non-Refund of Booking Amount Due to COVID-19 Flight Cancellation

The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in Ambala, Haryana, chaired by Neena Sandhu (President) and Vinod Kumar Sharma (Member), found Air India responsible for inadequate service for its failure to refund the ticket price after canceling flights due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Summary of Facts

The complainants planned a trip to Chicago, USA, scheduled for May 2021. They booked two flight tickets online for travel from New Delhi to Chicago on May 19, 2021, with a return to New Delhi on July 1, 2021, paying Rs. 1,43,611/- to Air India. They received a booking reference number and E-ticket numbers for their booking and obtained visas from the embassy. In April 2021, amid the onset of India’s second wave of the coronavirus pandemic, the public became aware of its severity. The complainants, concerned about flight suspensions due to government measures, inquired about their flight status via email, particularly after learning about the suspension of flights until May 31, 2021.

Air India responded to their initial email by requesting additional details, which the complainants provided through multiple subsequent emails. Despite numerous requests and reminders from the complainants, Air India eventually informed them that the tickets were canceled due to flight cancellations. The complainants continued to correspond with Air India, persistently requesting a refund of the booking amount, but received no response to their emails and calls. In June 2021, Air India refunded Rs. 70,021/- to the complainants’ account for the canceled flights, whereas the actual amount paid was Rs. 1,43,611/-. The complainants then sent another email to Air India highlighting the discrepancy in the refund amount and requesting a full refund. Despite several requests, the complainants did not receive any resolution. Consequently, feeling aggrieved, they filed a consumer complaint against Air India with the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in Ambala, Haryana (‘District Commission’)

Upon being notified, Air India asserted that the complainants approached the Commission without genuine intentions. It argued that the complainants did not disclose any valid grounds against the airline and claimed that both tickets were refunded at Rs. 70,021/- each. Air India contended that despite multiple requests, the complainants did not submit their bank statements. The airline further stated that it had refunded the full amount for both tickets on July 1, 2021, but asserted that the complainants failed to provide their bank statements to verify this claim.

Findings made by the District Commission

The District Commission observed that Air India claimed to have refunded Rs.70,021/- twice, supported by entries labeled “WS-Web Sales Refunds 70021” from its computer dashboard. However, despite multiple opportunities, Air India did not formally submit these documents as evidence to the District Commission.

Furthermore, the District Commission noted that while Air India credited Rs.70,021/-, there was no additional credit as Air India had asserted. The absence of documentary evidence backing Air India’s claim that the entire amount was refunded undermined its credibility. Consequently, the District Commission found no basis to question the complainants’ assertion that only Rs.70,021/- had been refunded, rather than the full amount of Rs.1,43,611/-.

As a result, the District Commission determined that Air India had not reimbursed the remaining Rs.73,590/- to the complainants, thereby holding Air India responsible for failing to meet its service obligations adequately. Consequently, the District Commission ordered Air India to refund the outstanding Rs.73,590/- to the complainants, along with 6% interest. Additionally, Air India was instructed to provide Rs.5,000/- as compensation for the mental anguish and physical inconvenience suffered by the complainants, and Rs.3,000/- to cover litigation expenses.

Posted and reproduced in Public Interest by

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