Aeroflot asked to refund ticket holder after court rap

New Delhi, Feb 10 (IANS) Russia's Aeroflot Airlines has been asked by a consumer court to pay Rs.1.3 lakh (approx $2,400) to a passenger who was forced to call off his travel from India to the US in 2007 but was "arbitrarily and whimsically" denied a refund of his tickets.

The Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has rapped the airlines, which has an office at Tolstoy Marg in central Delhi, for "arbitrarily" and "whimsically" retaining Kulbir Singh's money and attempting to cover its lapses by blaming the consumer for allegedly not presenting the original tickets for refund.

Kulbir Singh, who has houses in Virginia in the US and Mohali in Punjab, should be refunded Rs.1.30 lakh - the tickets' value - along with five percent interest on them for one year and a compensation of Rs.2,000, commission's Presiding Member Salma Noor and Member V.K. Gupta said in a recent order.

The state commission pulled up Aeroflot Airlines and dismissed its appeal against a district forum which ruled in favour of Singh.

"The district forum has taken the correct view in refunding the amount of the tickets to the tune of Rs.1.30 lakh and this amount is arbitrarily and whimsically retained by the airline by which the complainant was deprived of the use of this money," said Noor.

The state commission also endorsed the district forum's March 17, 2011 decision to award Singh an interest of five percent per annum, for one year, on the amount of the tickets and a compensation of Rs.2,000.

Singh said in his complaint that he purchased two tickets for Rs.1.3 lakh for journey from India to the US scheduled for March 20, 2007.

"Due to unforeseen circumstances, I could not undertake the journey on March 20, 2007 and approached the airline, before the due date, for postponement of my travel to another date but the airline was not able to accommodate, without charges for re-scheduling," Singh said in his complaint.

He said he could not avail the tickets and it remained with him and asked the airline to refund Rs.1.3 lakh but it was denied. Later, he sent a legal notice to the airlines.

The airlines denied Singh's allegations of refusing to refund his money. It admitted that the tickets were purchased for Rs.1.3 lakh and he was to return on or before March 20, 2007.

"The original tickets were not produced, therefore, the refund was not made and the complainant is not entitled to claim any compensation," the airlines said.

The commission disagreed with the plea.

"The only argument advanced by the airline is that the complainant has not produced the original tickets, therefore, it was not possible for it to make the payment. This contention is devoid of any force and it may be mentioned that the district forum has very specifically and categorically stated that the original tickets were produced before them," the commission said.

Directing Aeroflot to pay up, Noor said that there was no way it could escape from the responsibility of compensating Singh. "At no point Singh said that the tickets had been lost and even the airlines had admitted that his plea for postponement of the journey was turned down by it."

(Rahul Chhabra can be contacted at rahul.c@ians.in)

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