Custodian of goods cannot be allowed to exempt accountability toward goods: DSCDRC holds Lufthansa Airlines guilty of deficiency in service

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A passenger lost seven bags on a flight from Frankfurt to London.

The Delhi State Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission (DSCDRC) recently held Lufthansa German Airlines guilty of committing serious deficiency in service while mishandling the baggage of a passenger who lost seven bags on a flight from Frankfurt to London.

The bench of Justice Sangita Dhingra Sehgal (President), Ms. Pinki, Member (Judicial), and Mr. J.P. Agrawal (General) said that the negligence, insensitivity, and passivity displayed by airlines staff towards the "unfortunate" passengers could not be condoned in any manner whatsoever.

"A custodian of goods cannot be allowed to exempt/from accountability towards the goods," the Commission said.

The DSCDRC was dealing with an appeal moved by Lufthansa German Airlines assailing an order passed by District Commission in July 2014. The District Forum had ordered the airline to pay for the passenger's lost goods by paying USD 5,000 and Rs 1.5 lakh for his harassment and litigation expenses.

Aggrieved by the aforesaid judgment of the District Commission, the airline moved the DSCDRC. Stating that the award of USD 5000 on account of the alleged loss of goods was unfair, it argued that the District Commission failed to appreciate the fact that there was no evidence of any damage or alleged value of the articles in the present case.

The airline's counsel also informed the DSCDRC that the company had already sent two cheques, each of Rs 61,875, to the concerned passenger, under the Montreal Convention 2006 as a goodwill gesture.

The DSCDRC, however, opined that the records revealed that the airline had been negligent in handling the baggage of the passenger.

When the Respondent/Complainant travelled from Frankfurt to London, all his 7 baggages were missing out of which 6 baggages were traced and delivered to the Respondent on different dates and the 7th baggage was retrieved and delivered to the Respondent on 24.08.2007 i.e. after a month from the date of arrival at London Airport i.e. on 11.07.2007, the Commission noted. 

Further, regarding the two cheques to the passenger sent by the airline, the Commission said that it is the duty and obligation of the airline to safe keep the passenger's belongings during travel when passengers are not allowed to keep their belongings in their own custody, therefore, mere paying two cheques of Rs 61,875 each to the passenger would not absolve the airline of its responsibility.

The DSCDRC also observed that due to the mishandling of the baggage of the passenger, he had to suffer from mental harassment, therefore, the airline had committed serious deficiency in service while mishandling his baggage. 

Accordingly, the Commission found no reason to reverse the findings of the District Commission and consequently upheld its order.