Consumer rights

Delayed 36 hours, flyers prepare for legal action

Some passengers who flew Lufthansa from Frankfurt to Bangalore on October 18 are bracing for legal action as they arrived 36 hours late and after a long ordeal.

German airline Lufthansa flight LH 754 was diverted to Istanbul, Turkey, due to a medical emergency shortly after takeoff. About four hours later, the passengers were disembarked at Istanbul Airport in Turkey. The flight was then rescheduled three times and landed in Bangalore on the afternoon of October 20.

Airmen are upset because they haven’t received enough on-the-ground assistance regarding accommodations and flight status.

About 380 people were on board the flight, including two-time Grammy Award winner Ricky Kej from Bengaluru. ‘No hotel, no staff, no explanation’ – He accused the airline of taking ‘Indian customers for granted’ on Twitter.

Among them, 171 are meeting on a WhatsApp group and discussing the options for requesting a refund and how to seek compensation, explains Vasishta Jayanti. He decided to fly from Istanbul via Muscat on another airline, spending Rs 54,000, in addition to the Rs 73,000 he had paid Lufthansa for the round trip.

“Almost everyone in the group filled in the feedback form that we found on the Lufthansa website. Maybe one or two received a response. I didn’t receive any,” says the business man.

The Lufthansa website talks about the “right to compensation if your arrival at the destination airport is delayed by more than three hours and the delay cannot be attributed to extraordinary circumstances”.

Along with her brother and three friends, Vasishta plans to file a consumer rights lawsuit after the Deepavali holiday. “Since we bought the tickets in India, we hope that our laws will have something to compensate us not only for the expense but also for the distress,” he says. (See box)

As he had taken out travel insurance covering flight delays, he is also in contact with the insurance company to see if
he can get back the money he spent on the extra ticket.

Unlike Vasishta, Reshmy Prasad received an email from Lufthansa offering “payment” in response to his complaint. But she is not satisfied. “They didn’t define how the compensation would be calculated,” explained the electrical engineer from Hebbal, who was on a work and holiday trip to Norway.

She also reflects on a consumer case “for the lack of services”, including the lack of vegetarian meals on the six-and-a-half-hour flight from Istanbul. “I just ate bread and butter,” she said.

Since the travelers had checked most of their baggage, they had few toiletries, clothing, and infant formula in their carry-on baggage. Deepthi Mooga, a visiting lecturer at a college, had to make do with the limited number of sanitary pads she carried. She did not have an international debit card and constantly worried that she would run out of money.

“Compensation is needed but more importantly we need an explanation from the airline and also from the Indian authorities who have not taken any action on this,” Deepthi said.

Consequences

The passengers arrived exhausted. Some were up to inquire about the status of the flight and some were unable to find rooms to rest as limited accommodation was available.

Gayathri Kulkarni and her husband flew from the United States to India via Frankfurt to celebrate Deepavali in Mysuru,
his hometown. But she was still in Bangalore with a relative when we called her on Tuesday, tending to an injury she had suffered from the ’36-hour torture’.

In her 60s, the researcher woke up so tired the day after her arrival that she fell in the bathroom and injured her left arm. “Now I wear a bracelet and a scarf,” she says.

Vasishta and her brother prepare to file a complaint with the police for a phishing scam.

“Since my international roaming package expired, I connected to a WiFi network at Istanbul Airport. In 15 minutes, at least six unauthorized transactions amounting to Rs 82,000 were attempted on my credit card. I called my bank to block the card but around Rs 33,000 had already been charged to my card. My brother’s card was also targeted and transactions worth around Rs 24,000 are being investigated,” he claims.

Reshmy and her husband cope with the work that has been pushed.

Taruna Reddy was on a paid work trip. But fed up with the incessant delays, she decided to fly from Muscat instead, paying “about Rs 50,000 on the last minute ticket”.

“The trip home was so mentally taxing that I couldn’t get into the rhythm to celebrate Deepavali,” said Taruna, who works in product management.

Airline Response

On Twitter, Lufthansa said replacing oxygen cylinders used in medical emergencies was time-consuming and the flight crew had exceeded their legally permitted duty time.

What the law says?

Flight delays are the subject of service-focused grievances under the Consumer Protection Act 2019. Indra Dhanush MA, lawyer, says: “You can seek compensation from the airline for the delay, lack of explanation for the delay, lack of help in arranging accommodation, or if you did not have access to the medicines that you had registered. Not just the cost of the ticket, you can also justify the mental agony and loss of activity due to the delay. You can also claim compensation in addition to what the airline has offered. This applies both to people who bought their tickets in India and also abroad, provided the airline is doing business or has an office here. “The success rate in favor of consumers in such cases is high,” he says.