MUMBAI: In what is arguably a first-of-its kind case, a group of BMC conservancy staff workers has filed a criminal case of cheating against Jet Airways for denying them boarding passes for a Delhi-Mumbai flight on the grounds that they reported late at the airport check-in counter. The seven families, who say they had pooled their savings to board a flight for the first time, have alleged fraud and wrongful action by the airline’s staffers claiming they issued boarding cards to other passengers who reported to the counter much later.
A month after 32 out of 35 members in the group missed their flight, the Tardeo police responded to a complaint sent by the group and filed an FIR on December 24, 2016 under Sections 406, 420, 507 and 34 (cheating and criminal breach of trust) of the Indian Penal Code.
Jet Airways has denied the allegations made in the FIR.
Police have in the course of their probe so far approached mobile phone network providers for information on the location of these passengers at the crucial hour before the flight, the CISF (which looks after airport security) for CCTV footage of the airport, and the Delhi air traffic control tower, among others.
The group was booked on the 10.45am Delhi-Mumbai Jet flight 9W 358 on November 13. “We reached the Jet counter at 9.52 am, but the Jet staffer said we had reported late and denied us boarding cards.After an argument, she scribbled ‘R T (reporting time) 9.57′ on the tickets. Meanwhile, other passengers in the queue were being given boarding passes for the same flight,” said the FIR.
The 35 tickets were spread over eight PNRs, and ‘R T 9.57′ was written on the first lot of three tickets (clubbed under one PNR) that the group leader, Jayanti Rathod, had presented at the counter.
“When I saw that others were getting boarding cards, I distributed the tickets among the respective families. At 10.17am, they gave boarding cards to three from our group.They probably didn’t know they were from our group. Four other passengers from our group on the same PNR were offloaded,” Rathod said.
The passenger manifest that Jet sent to the police in response to a summons (a copy of which is with TOI) shows 9 other passengers were issued boarding cards after10 am.
The FIR alleged the Jet staff told the group they would have to buy new tickets, each costing Rs 27,300, if they had to board the same flight.”We had bought our tickets for Rs 4,800 each four months earlier. Jet denied us boarding passes and sold our tickets at a high price to last-minute buyers, who were issued boarding cards well up to 10.20am.We want action against the airline. Hence we approached the police and not the consumer court,” said Rathod.
The 32 members of the group (they had gone on a 7day trip to Haridwar and Agra) bought new tickets for Rs 3.16 lakh on evening flights with the banned currency they had post the government’s November 8 demonetisation move.
Once in Mumbai, Rathod sent a complaint to the police and a month later, statements of the passengers were taken and an FIR filed.
The CISF could have provided a crucial piece of evidence, but the police were late to approach them as video records are maintained for only one month. “The police approached the mobile phone network providers and it has been proved that the passengers were inside the airport at around 9.40am,” said a police officer involved in the investigation.
Rathod also alleged the passenger manifest sent by Jet in response to the police summons doesn’t have the list of all passengers who were issued boarding cards. “The manifest has a list of 136 passengers along with the time they were issued boarding passes. But the Delhi air traffic control said there were 147 people on board the flight, including 5 crew members. There’s a discrepancy. Were these passengers issued boarding cards very late?” he asked.
TOI is also in possession of the Delhi ATC communication to the police. PSI T Dighe, who is invesg tigating the matter, was not available for comment. Kanti Khuman, another passenger from the group said: “I took a loan to buy the ticket as I wanted my family to experience air travel. I felt that had we be en as well-dressed as other passengers, they would have treated us differently.”
Rathod said, “When they told us we couldn’t board the flight, some in the group started crying. We had spent a total of Rs 1.73 lakh on 35 tickets.Thereafter we spent another Rs 3.16 lakh to buy new tickets.It was an extremely traumatic experience.”
‘They reached counter well after it shut’
Jet Airways has said 32 of the group of 35 passengers were not given boarding cards as they didn’t report to the check-in counter on time.
“Check-in counters close 45 minutes before departure of a flight, and guests are to present themselves at the checkin counters on or before this time for getting their boarding passes issued and their baggage checked in,” said the airline spokesperson.
“In this instance, since the flight was scheduled to depart at 10:45am, the check-in counters were closed at 10am. The leader of the group reported at the check-in counters around 10:08am (that is, after closure of check-in counters) and informed the counter staff of the group of 35 that was