Air India directed to compensate elderly couple Rs 48,000 for seat change debacle

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The Permanent Lok Adalat (Public Utility Services) in Chandigarh has ruled in favour of senior citizens Sunil and Kusum Parti, directing Air India to pay them Rs 48,000 as compensation for changing their booked seats on a Delhi-Vancouver flight. 

The couple had paid an additional premium of Rs 18,000 for seats with extra legroom.

The couple, who had selected seats 41C and 41A for the June 22 flight, were shocked to find their boarding passes issued with different seats (32E and 32D) at the time of boarding, without prior intimation. 

Allegedly met with rude behavior when inquiring about the change, they were told by airline staff to either accept the new seats or leave the boarding.

Air India’s response claimed the petition lacked merit and was vexatious, suggesting the couple’s emergency exit seat was declined due to health reasons. 

The airline argued that considering their senior citizen status, the couple was ineligible for the seats allocated, which were later reassigned following safety evaluations.

The Lok Adalat bench disagreed with Air India’s stance, emphasizing that despite disclaimers and warnings about seat changes on the airline’s website, the responsibility lies with the airline to check passenger eligibility before charging extra for specific seats. 

The bench, comprising Chairman S K Sachdeva and members Sakshi Singh and Roonam Kaushik, held that the couple was entitled to Rs 48,000 as compensation.

The ruling highlighted the discomfort caused to the elderly passengers during the approximately 15-hour journey and emphasized that the airline had not refunded the extra premium charged. 

The decision underscored the airline’s duty to ensure a hassle-free experience for passengers who had innocently paid for specific seats.