Top golfer Gaganjeet Bhullar lodged a complaint against Emirates Airlines for delaying his bags, which he said affected his game.
Jehangir Gai tells us what happened next.
Gaganjeet Bhullar, a professional golf player, won nine national-level tournaments and also represented India in Asian and world-level championships.
He was ranked fifth in Asia and 159th in the world. He endorsed various brands. His contracts with them required him to use their equipment and clothing, or else face liability claims.
On February 17, 2014, Bhullar flew on an Emirates Airlines flight from Johannesburg to Mumbai via Dubai to play in the Louis Philippe Cup in Mumbai.
The flight landed in Mumbai at 1700 hours, but his baggage was missing. He was told it would arrive by the next flight.
Although he waited for three hours at the airport, the baggage did not arrive. Without his golfing equipment, he could not participate in the tournament and hence lost the opportunity to win the prize money of Rs 1.5 crore (Rs 15 million).
Bhullar also missed his practice for the next tournament in Casablanca. His baggage was finally traced and delivered on February 20, 2014.
On March 10, 2014, Bhullar flew in the business class of Emirates Airlines from Delhi to Casablanca via Dubai to participate in the Trophy Hassan II tournament, in which the prize money was 1.5 million euros.
His golf kit was once again not loaded on the same flight. Part of the luggage was delivered on the day after landing, but his clothing worth Rs 100,000, which had to be worn according to the contract with Titleist and Footjoy, was lost.
This caused him anxiety and stress. He could not concentrate on his game and his performance was adversely affected.
Bhullar had a legal notice issued to the airline for gross deficiency in service and demanded compensation. Since the airline did not respond, he filed a complaint before the National Commission.
The airline contested the complaint. It stated that Bhullar had checked in two bags weighing 42 kg altogether, one of which was lost.
The airline stated that the baggage handling procedure was the same for all passengers, including those flying business class.
It relied on the provisions of the Carriage by Air Act, 1972 (amended in 2009), which restricted an airline's maximum liability to SDR (Special Drawing Right) 1,000 for loss, destruction, delay, or damage to baggage unless a special declaration of value was made at the time of booking or check-in.
The airline stated that it was willing to pay SDR 1,000, provided Bhullar produced proof of the value of the lost baggage.
The National Commission observed that the claim of Rs 1.5 crore for loss of prize money was hypothetical and exaggerated.
As regards the claim for mental tension, the Commission noted that Bhullar had done well on the first day, but subsequently, his performance was not good.
It concluded that there was no substance in Bhullar's contention that his performance was adversely affected due to mental tension.
The Commission also refused to award any compensation to Bhullar for the alleged breach of agreement in using the equipment and clothing of Titleist and Footjoy, as he had not produced any evidence to show the company had taken any action for the purported violation.
In its order of September 15, 2023, delivered by Justice Ram Surat Ram Maurya for the bench along with Bharatkumar Pandya, the National Commission directed Bhullar to submit proof of the value of the lost baggage and ordered the airline to pay compensation up to SDR 1,000 as provided under the Carriage by Air Act, along with 9 per cent interest from April 2014 onwards.
Jehangir B Gai is a consumer activist.
Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com