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Airlines pay peanuts after mishandling flyers’ baggage

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New Delhi, July 01: A feud between India's budget carrier IndiGo and a Supreme Court lawyer has highlighted how various airlines in India pay peanuts after mishandling /damaging flyers' baggage.

Advocate Kushal Sharma was travelling from Singapore to Delhi via Chennai. He purchased imported duty-free liquor bottles from Chennai airport on June 29 with a complimentary handbag worth Rs. 20000. He wanted to carry the liquor as hand baggage but as per the policy the IndiGo staff didn't allow and asked Sharma to checkin liquor bag.

Airlines pay peanuts after mishandling flyers’ baggage

"I told airline staff repeatedly that it's liquor and it will be broken. However, they said we will mark it as fragile and nothing will happen as we do it regularly. Having no option i checked in the bag. I arrived in Delhi domestic airport and collected the bag from counter 01, I found bottles were totally crushed and broken," says Sharma.

Perturbed advocate went to the IndiGo counter and showed them the condition of the liquor bottles.

"I immediately went to IndiGo counter where they took photographs of broken liquor bottles and said that 'nothing can be done now. We have noted it but as per policy, the responsibility is not ours. I was so upset and it was so painful. When I called their customer care, the baggage care representative told me that 'it's not our responsibility. We had marked it fragile, and if it's damaged then now it's customer's responsibility'," informed the advocate.

Now, check-in with excess baggage may cost more on domestic flights

The IndiGo's baggage policy says that "IndiGo assumes no liability for fragile or perishable articles. IndiGo shall have no liability whatsoever for damage to articles not permitted to be contained in Checked Baggage as per the provisions of the Conditions of Carriage (including, without limitation, fragile or perishable items, items having a special value, such as money, jewellery, precious metals, computers, personal electronic devices, negotiable papers, camera, TV, securities, or other valuables, business documents, passports and other identification documents)".

However, the airlines further, says that "(Liability) limited to a maximum of INR 20,000/- only. Other conditions as per the Act apply."

Again it has not been clearly mentioned how the airlines will pay the liability of Rs. 20000.

For example, when the airlines came to know that the aggrieved customer is a lawyer then after initial dillydallying it offered to give him gift vouchers worth Rs 20000 as compensation.

The Advocate says, "IndiGo is offering me voucher worth Rs 2000 for this huge monetarily loss and mental agony. It's such a shameful act. They don't care for what suffering the passenger has gone through."

He has said that he would take legal action against the airlines if it fails to resolve the matter upto his satisfaction.

A detailed look at the delayed, misplaced, lost, or damaged baggage policies of different airlines also call for immediate interference of Civil Aviation Ministry as the compensation offered is like a peanut.

For example, IndiGo's liability for loss or damage to baggage is Rs 350 per kg.

Jet Airways says that in case a misplaced bag is not recovered within 14 days, the airline will settle the passenger's claim up to a maximum liability of Rs. 450 per kg of checked-in baggage for flights within the country.

According to SpiceJet, its liability for loss or damage to baggage is limited to Rs. 200 per kg; with a maximum of Rs. 3,000.

Chennai, 5 other airports to do away with handbag stamping

According to Air India, if a lost bag cannot be found within 24 hours of a flyer reaching an international destination, then the airline gives a one-time interim expense of 50 British pounds, or equivalent in local currency. In India, this amount is Rs. 3,000. On domestic flights, if the baggage is delivered the following day or later, the maximum amount that the airline reimburses is Rs. 2,000.

Getting compensation from airlines is very cumbersome as majority of the flyers are not aware of the different policies of the airlines as they just book tickets and fly.

They are faced with hard realities once they land in trouble.

All the airlines have published their various policies on their websites, mostly in English assuming that all flyers are well-versed with English. Only Air India has English as well as Hindi website.

A close look at the different policies shows that they all have been framed to save the skin of the airlines in case of a dispute.

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