A consumer forum here has directed the British Airways to pay a compensation of Rs five lakh to an elderly city-based couple for not providing them wheelchair assistance as requested in advance at the Heathrow Airport, London.
The District Consumer Disputes Redressal Forum Hyderabad II recently directed the airline to pay the sum to the complainants together as compensation for their “suffering and trauma” besides to pay costs of Rs 10,000 each.
The couple had filed the complaint before the forum in November 2016 stating that they are senior citizens in their 70s suffering from age-related ailments.
During their onward journey from Hyderabad to Phoenix, USA, they were travelling with the British Airways on November 28, 2015, and they were transiting through London Heathrow.
Both had booked for wheelchair assistance for change of terminal but were not provided with the necessary assistance when they arrived at Heathrow Airport and had to walk a long way and faced many difficulties in reaching Terminal T3 to travel on the designated flight to Phoenix, USA.
On their return journey on May 23, 2016, from the USA to Hyderabad, they faced the same difficulty while transiting through London Heathrow.
They were provided only one chair and missed their connection flight at the departure gate, according to the complaint.
Since they had missed their flight, they once again had to walk a long distance to reach the customer care counter and they were rebooked on the same flight for the next day.
But they were provided food coupons and hotel accommodations by the airline, the complainants said. However, the airline denied their responsibility in providing wheelchair assistance at Heathrow.
It contended that the provision of providing wheelchair at London Heathrow was the responsibility of the Heathrow Airport Authority, who sub-contract the same to ‘Omniserve.’ Hence the request was passed on to Omniserve and it was their responsibility to provide the wheelchair assistance to the complainants.
The forum noted that the complainants, senior citizens, who were undertaking a long and arduous journey had placed a timely request for assistance which was not provided.
Their return journey was also fraught with similar issues and despite the long walk, they missed their connection to Hyderabad.
The complainants had clearly requested for special assistance while booking their tickets and nothing in the ticket reveals their contract is with ‘Omniserve’.
Their payment was made to opposite party (British Airways) and the arrangement was definitely the (responsibility of the) opposite party only, the forum observed in its May 13 order.