In what is bound to spell fresh trouble for Air India, the Indian airline giant has been directed by country's apex consumer commission to pay Rs 1 lakh as compensation for serving stale food to a passenger on a flight plying from Mumbai to New York.
The National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission, while dismissing the revision petition filed by the airline in 2015, said "the nature of deficiency in service" could have affected the health of several passengers.
"Taking into account the nature of deficiency in service and the fact that it would have affected the health of several passengers, we do not find any fault with the order of State Commission, enhancing the compensation to Rs one lakh," the bench, presided by Justice Ajit Bharihoke, said on 26 September. The bench also upheld the award of Rs 10,000 as litigation cost by district forum.
The Maharashtra State Consumer Commission had earlier enhanced to Rs one lakh from Rs 15,000, the compensation awarded by the district forum, saying the passenger might have been required to go foodless during the remaining journey and such conditions create a bad situation during air travel.
According to the complaint filed by Malti Madhukar Pahade, she was served with stale food while travelling in the Air India flight from Mumbai to New York. She claimed she also found a strand of hair in the rice bowl.
Pahade described the bad state of curd served and referred it as "green as cherry".
While challenging the State Commission's order, Air India contended that the enhancement of compensation by the State Commission was not justified as it was "highly disproportionate to the negligence/deficiency in service alleged by the complainant".
The bench, also comprising member SM Kantikar, dismissed the contention and upheld the state commission's order that said a passenger travelling with a reputed airline expected minimum courtesy and proper food for human consumption.
It also noted that the airline had fined the caterer Rs 20,000 for serving stale food on board.
"We do not wish to comment upon the motive or reason of the concerned authority to impose such a meagre amount of fine on the defaulting caterer, particularly when the food supplied by the caterer is served to all the passengers travelling in the flight," the bench said.