Go First Ordered to Refund Cost of In-Flight Meal, Pay Compensation
Moneylife Digital Team 09 June 2023
For not providing the desired pre-booked meal, the District Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in Delhi has ordered Go Airlines (now referred to as Go First) to refund the cost of the prepaid in-flight meal, along with compensation for mental agony and harassment to a passenger.
 
Renowned right to information (RTI) and social activist Subhash Chandra Agrawal had chosen a pre-booked in-flight meal combo of popcorn, Lays and juice (selected from an option of four meals) on his Delhi to Ranchi flight on 29 October 2018. Unfortunately, due to the unavailability of popcorn, the flight attendant requested Mr Agrawal to choose another meal option. 
 
Considering that the price for cashew nuts was Rs150, the same as for popcorn, Mr Agarwal chose those as a replacement. The flight attendant also declined this request because the cashew nuts were only part of the in-flight menu on a "subject to availability" basis. 
 
In his complaint to the consumer forum, Mr Agrawal alleges that other competitor airlines operating in India have a much more comprehensive range of meal options for consumers, irrespective of their price. He has also alleged that the prices listed on Go First's in-flight menu for packaged food items such as juices or aerated beverages are exorbitantly high compared to the market price for such drinks. 
 
Aggrieved by the flight attendant's behaviour in this particular case, Mr Agrawal decided to cancel his return flight from Ranchi with Go First. He subsequently filed complaints with the department of consumer affairs and the union civil aviation ministry through online portals on 11 November 2018, 29 November 2018 and 16 December 2018.
 
Having received no response from either of the government portals, he filed a complaint with the district consumer forum on 6 May 2022, requesting the consumer commission to direct Go First to refund the cost of the in-flight meal, along with a compensation of Rs1 lakh on account of mental agony and Rs25,000 as litigation cost. 
 
He further requested the bench to direct Go First to stop charging prices in excess of the MRP (maximum retail prices) for packaged food items sold in-flight. Comparing options from other airlines operating domestically in India, he also requested the consumer forum to direct Go Air to provide flexible options for in-flight meals. 
 
Responding to the complaint, the legal representation for Go First raised an objection saying that Mr Agrawal had not approached the commission in good faith, that the complaint was "false and frivolous", and that there was no cause for deficiency in services. The carrier argued that the probable reason for the complaint arose on 29 October 2018, but a consumer complaint from Mr Agarwal was only filed on 6 May 2022, beyond the two years prescribed under the Act. 
 
Go First further argued that all rules and regulations regarding the pricing of products sold in-flight have followed the rules framed under the Legal Metrology Act 2009. The dual pricing of the same products is permissible under the law and thus there was no unfair trade practice on their part, it contended.
 
The district consumer commission bench headed by Harpreet Kaur Charya ruled that the prescribed time limitation of two years for filing a complaint with the commission, while applicable, was overruled by a judgement from the Supreme Court in suo moto Writ Petition (C) no. 3 of 2020. Accordingly, Mr Agrawal could validly file a consumer complaint until 14 October 2022; hence, his original complaint could not be dismissed on these grounds.
 
The bench further said that "despite charging for the meal, (Go First) not only failed to deliver the meal opted by the complainant but also did not honour the request for substituting the popcorn with cashew nuts, irrespective of the fact that both were of the same price." Thus, the bench resolved that this action of Go First amounts to a deficiency in service. 
 
Regarding high pricing of in-flight packaged products, the court refused to accept the complaint as the submitted "photographs of the menu (show) the price printed for Paper Boat as Rs100, however, the MRP is not visible on the pack". As Mr Agrawal could not prove his allegations for this aspect of his complaint, the consumer commission dismissed the same. 
 
Similarly, for the complaint that Go First needs to provide a wide variety of choices for in-flight meals as other domestic airlines in India, the commission dismissed the complaint on the grounds that "it is the sole business strategy of the respective airlines and issuance of such direction does not come under the purview of the Consumer Protection Act."
 
With the facts submitted by Mr Agrawal, the consumer court ruled in his favour ordering Go First to refund the cost of the popcorn, which was not provided to the complainant, along with a compensation of Rs7,500 for mental agony and harassment, inclusive of litigation expenses. 
 
Go First has been granted 30 days from the receipt of the consumer commission's order to comply. In case of non-compliance, they will be liable to pay an interest of 7% on Rs7,500 from the date of the order. 
Comments
shahgirish871
11 months ago
I have booked tickets for traveling from Chandigarh to Ahmedabad for dt 5th of may! As per Air line rules " if I will cancel the ticket they will charge cancellation charges, but " if Air line will cancel the flight/ or tickets,we/ you will not get any compensation!" WHY this! They people" Air line owners have taken advantage of our money and we are unable to do anything! Please come all person/ people and we have to fight for refund with interest and for mental hurresment !!! Please share this.
kapoorabhinav550
11 months ago
5 julai 2023 ka ticket h mera uska kya hoga.
Refund ya flight shuru hogi
annsilva98david
Replied to kapoorabhinav550 comment 11 months ago
Diwala nikha hai. NCLT me proceedings chal Raha hai. DGCA queries nikal Raha hai and airline is extending cancellation every 2 days. Ek baar ek mahine ka entension deke pura tayari karna chahiye. We are hearing huge costs these people don't understand
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