The Chandigarh Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission has directed Thai Airways and a Chandigarh private ticket booking firm to pay Rs 17,000 after a vegetarian Panchkula resident was served a non-vegetarian meal.
Ashok Kumar Vig of Panchkula said that he booked air tickets through the firm to travel from Delhi to Melbourne on September 21, 2018, with a layover in Bangkok. Vig said that the ticket specifically mentioned that he was to receive a vegetarian meal but when he took a few bites, he felt something was wrong with it. When he asked the flight staff, he was told that he was served a non-veg meal. Vig said that he was shocked and his religious sentiments were deeply hurt. He then filed a complaint at the Consumer Commission of Chandigarh against the airlines.
In its reply, Thai Airways International submitted that the complainant’s booking included an option for an Asian Vegetarian Meal. As per his request made to the crew of airlines, he was duly informed that the Hindu Meal was not a vegetarian meal. And as per the feedback received from the concerned crew member, the complainant did not seem upset but rather pleased at being served the meal. Pleading that there is no deficiency in service or unfair trade practice on its part, the airlines prayed for the dismissal of the consumer complaint.
Kanwal Travel, the booking firm in question, replied to the complaint by submitting that they had booked the ticket with an option for the vegetarian meal and were thus not at fault.
After hearing the matter, the Commission bench held that the airlines admitted that the complainant had booked an Asian Vegetarian Meal, which is evident from the boarding pass. However, when the complainant was served this opted meal, he told the crew members that he wanted the Hindu Vegetarian Meal, instead of the Asian Vegetarian Meal. Due to this communication gap with the crew members, the complainant was served the Hindu Non-Veg Meal.
The Commission further held, “The act and conduct of the respondents (airlines) by serving non-vegetarian meals instead of “vegetarian meals” to the complainant not only amounts to grave negligence and deficiency in service on its part, but in our considered opinion, it is also an attempt to hurt complainant’s religious sentiments, especially, being Hindu and pure vegetarian. Generally, by faith, it is considered a sin in the eyes of God. Though, in such types of cases, there cannot be actual compensation, yet, the non-pecuniary loss includes the compensation for anguish of the mind, mental tribulations, mental or physical shock, pain, suffering disappointment, frustration, unhappiness, etc. We hold that there was gross deficiency on the part of the Opposite Parties (airlines and ticket booking firm) in serving meals to the complainant aboard the aircraft, during the course of the journey.”
The Commission thus ordered both Thai Airways and Kanwal Travels to pay an amount of Rs 10,000 to the complainant as compensation and Rs 7,000 as costs of litigation.