A Kerala Consumer Court recently ordered the Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL) to pay compensation of ₹16,000 to a passenger who got drenched in the rain because the step ladder to board the flight did not have any cover to protect passengers from the rain. [TGN Kumar v The Managing Director, Cochin International Airport Limited (CIAL)].
The District Consumer Redressal Commission, Ernakulam, presided over by President DB Binu and members V Ramachandran and Sreevidhia TN took note of the fact that even though CIAL could have provided CCTV footage to disprove the allegation that they had not provided any rain cover, they had not done so.
Thus, the consumer court opined that a negative inference can be drawn against CIAL for getting the passenger drenched in rain, thereby causing him physical discomfort, mental pain, and agony.
“Hence the 1st Opposite Party is liable to pay compensation to the complainant regarding the issue of not providing a step ladder without a canopy while boarding the aircraft constitutes a deficiency in service. The opposite party shall pay the complainant Rs. 8000 as compensation for the physical discomfort, mental agony etc. caused to the complainant due to the acts/omission on the part of the 1st Opposite Party,” the final order said.
The Court also ordered CIAL to pay an additional ₹8,000 towards the cost of the proceedings.
The order of the Commission also contained some general observations about the indifference shown by profit-making organisations like CIAL towards the welfare of their customers.
“It is generally seen that even huge profit-making entities are indifferent in their attitude towards customers in the protection of their rights. We cannot be mute spectators when consumers approach commissions like these for the redressal of their grievances which cannot be raised elsewhere,” the order stated.
The order was passed on a complaint filed by a passenger seeking compensation from CIAL for deficiency in service.
The passenger was a native of Kochi and claimed to be a frequent flyer using CIAL very often.
In his complaint, he pointed out various instances where he experienced a deficiency of service from CIAL due to insufficient staff and inadequate services.
Among all those, he explained an instance where he got completely wet on a rainy day during the departure from CIAL due to a lack of rain shelter.
He contended that he had to on board with wet clothes until he reached his destination in New Delhi.
He further contended that he was bedridden for 3 days and suffered body pain from being wet on board due to the same.
Thus, he moved the consumer court.
CIAL argued that the complaint was not in accordance with the requirements of the Consumer Protection Act and should be dismissed
The consumer court after referring to various precedents said that the complaint is maintainable as passenger facilitation is a service that is not rendered free of charge and discharge of non-sovereign functions is not rendered free of charge.
Further, the consumer court took note of the fact that even though CIAL had the capability to provide CCTV footage to disprove the allegations of not providing rain canopy, they did not provide any footage.
“The fact whether there was rain and whether the passengers were provided with a rain canopy on the step ladder could be found out from the CCTV footage and is not disproved by the 1st Opposite Parts… The 1st opposite party bringing in possession of all relevant weather data and CCTV visuals of the airport had failed to provide such information to disprove the claim of the complainant regarding the rain and the non-provision of a step ladder without rain canopy for boarding the aircraft..” the order said.
Hence, the consumer court ordered CIAL to pay compensation of ₹16,000 to the passenger.