National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (NCDRC), in a landmark order, has asked the German airlines Lufthansa to refund the ticket money to a Chennai couple who did flight booking with one of the airline agent. The case dates back more than 10 years. The couple had booked cheap flights of return journey with Lufthansa with validity up to February 8, 2003. They flew to USA on August 8, 2002 but decided to come back within the validity period due to sickness. The airline declined the seats saying that these are not available. This made the couple buy tickets afresh with other airlines and spend huge sums of money. When approached for refund, the airline declined it on the premise that the ticket was issued under a special scheme called excursion fare scheme which did not allow the refund of unused return tickets. The airline contented that the code for this scheme was mentioned on the ticket and the agent must have told the couple about the same.
NCDRC has upheld the order passed by the Chennai State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (CSCDRC) which stated that merely mentioning the code words on the tickets does not absolve the airlines of the need for mentioning full terms and conditions clearly on the jacket of the ticket. The ruling states that since ticket is a contract between the airline and the consumer, all material facts and the terms and conditions need to be spelt out clearly on the ticket for any special scheme, unless it is a normal flight booking.
The ruling, despite coming 10 years late, is expected to bring more transparency to the way the airline tickets are sold to the customers, especially the cheap flights tickets being sold under some special scheme having different terms and conditions.