Decided on December 26,2007



- (1.) MR . Justice R.K. Patra, President -The Khurda District Forum by order dated 7.2.2006 made in C.D. Case No. 348 of 2004 has directed the British Airways to refund Rs. 31,496 (towards the cost of the return ticket) to the complainant and pay him Rs. 50,000 (towards compensation for mental agony), Rs. 50,000 (towards other expenses) and Rs. 2,000 as costs. Being aggrieved by the said order, the British Airways has filed First Appeal No. 287 of 2006. The complainant has filed First Appeal No. 568 of 2006 contending that the compensation, cost, etc. granted in his favour are not adequate. Both the appeals being analogous, they were heard together and are disposed of by this common order.
(2.) BRIEFLY stated the case of the complainant is that he was invited by Penn State University, Pennsylvania, United States of America to attend the Indigenous Knowledge Conference -2004 which was to take place from May 27 -29, 2004. He being a valid passport holder applied for visa to the U.S. Consulate at Kolkata indicating that he was to stay in the U.S. for two weeks. He purchased ticket through the local travel agency for his 'to and fro' journey to the U.S. on payment of Rs. 62,992. He proceeded from New Delhi to the U.S. on 24.5.2004. His visa was valid upto six months as a 'short terms scholar'. After completion of the programme, he came to Philadelphia Airport on 22.6.2004 to board the British Airways flight to come back to India. But the authorities of British Airways did not permit him to board the aircraft on the ground that the visa expired on 29.5.2004 and asked him to obtain transit visa for flying over United Kingdom. When he was refused to travel on that day, he became helpless on a foreign soil. He requested for refund of the balance cost of the ticket so as to enable him to purchase another ticket in some other airlines where transit visa was not required. But the British Airways told him that the amount would be refunded at the place of booking in India. In these difficult and miserable circumstances, he had to adjust in a friend's house spending money from his own resources and had to purchase ticket through the friend's credit card and finally reached India on 17.7.2004. According to the complainant, the British Airways is guilty of deficiency in service by refusing him to board the aircraft on 22.6.2004 in Philadelphia Airport when he had visa to stay in the U.S. for six months.
(3.) THE British Airways in its written version pleaded that the complainant's travelling visa expired on 29.5.2004 and, therefore, he could not have been allowed to travel in the aircraft on 22.6.2004 to fly through the United Kingdom en route to India. The District Forum held; (i) the complainant's visa was valid upto six months from 27.5.2004 and it did not expire when he wanted to return from the U.S. on 22.6.2004; (ii) refusal of the British Airways to return to India on the basis of ticket purchased by him amounts to deficiency in service.;

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