The Hyderabad District Commission finds Singapore Airlines responsible for failing to verify a passenger’s vaccination status, resulting in denied entry.

The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission–I, Hyderabad (Telangana), with B. Uma Venkata Subba Lakshmi as President and D. Madhavi Latha as Member, found Singapore Airlines accountable for service deficiency due to inadequate verification of a passenger’s vaccination status, resulting in her denial of entry into Singapore.

Summary of Events

The complainant planned a family trip to Singapore and booked four business class tickets through Singapore Airlines via his travel agent ‘Urban Trends’ in Hyderabad. On 09.06.2022, the complainant, along with his wife and their two children (aged four years and eleven months), embarked on their journey to Singapore. At Chennai Airport, the airline staff accepted their COVID-19 Sputnik V vaccination certificates, allowing them to proceed. However, upon arrival in Singapore, immigration authorities questioned the validity of the complainant’s wife’s Sputnik V vaccination and denied her entry. They informed the family that she needed to return to India according to regulations. Unwilling to leave his wife alone, especially with young children, the complainant chose to return to India with his family.

Upon their return, the complainant and his family were detained by Singapore Immigration in the IP Detention Room at Singapore Airport without receiving return tickets. Despite their cooperation and appeals, they were detained for several hours. A staff member from Singapore Airlines assured them of returning with their travel details but failed to provide any further information. Consequently, the complainant had to purchase four return tickets to Hyderabad, incurring additional expenses. Despite notifying Singapore Airlines about their new bookings, they were informed later that the flight was overbooked, and they would need to wait for the next day’s flight. After numerous calls and appeals, the family was finally booked on a return flight to Mumbai. Upon arrival, their luggage, containing essential food and medication, was missing and was received only a few days later.

The complainant brought up the matter with Singapore Airlines, which acknowledged their mistake but declined to provide compensation. Subsequently, the complainant sent a legal notice demanding reimbursement for all expenses related to the trip. Despite receiving the notices, the airline did not respond or comply. Dissatisfied with this, the complainant filed a complaint against Singapore Airlines and the travel agent in the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission–I, Hyderabad, Telangana (“District Commission”).

Singapore Airlines contended that the complainant had booked tickets for 09.06.2022, and upon arrival in Singapore, immigration authorities deemed the Sputnik V vaccine unrecognized due to its lack of WHO approval. According to Singapore Airlines’ General Conditions of Carriage, passengers are responsible for verifying local laws and requirements, which the complainant failed to fulfill. The airline denied liability for verifying each passenger’s vaccination status and asserted that it appropriately handled the tracing and return of the complainant’s baggage. Additionally, Singapore Airlines stated that it was the complainant’s and his family’s responsibility to acquaint themselves with travel guidelines during the pandemic.

The travel agent did not attend the District Commission proceedings.

Findings of the District Commission

The District Commission noted that an email from Singapore Airlines to the complainant acknowledged an error in allowing his wife to board without proper verification of her vaccination status, indicating negligence on the airline’s part.

While the airline argued contributory negligence, asserting that the complainant also bore responsibility to verify travel requirements, the District Commission emphasized that the primary responsibility for the boarding oversight rested with the airline. It concluded that the airline’s failure to adequately verify documents during check-in constituted significant negligence on its part. Therefore, the District Commission held Singapore Airlines accountable for negligence and deficient service, affirming that the complainant’s oversight of travel requirements did not absolve the airline of its primary responsibility.

As a result, the District Commission ordered Singapore Airlines to refund Rs. 3,85,927/- to the complainant and to pay Rs. 50,000/- each as compensation for harassment, humiliation, mental anguish, physical distress, and financial loss, along with Rs. 30,000/- towards litigation costs.

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