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Airline to pay for priest snub

New Delhi, Dec. 24 (PTI): An Italian airline that offloaded a Rome-bound Indian bishop in Kuwait although he had a confirmed ticket must pay him Rs 25,000 in damages.

Bishop John B. Thakur, from Muzaffarabad in Bihar, was put on the next flight but said his Rome schedule was thrown into disarray by the six-hour delay, which happened on July 31, 1997. It couldn’t be confirmed whether he is a Catholic and was reporting to the Vatican.

The Delhi state consumer commission held Alitalia responsible for its agent’s actions and asked it to pay the priest within a month. “Once a confirmed status is provided to a ticket, the passenger cannot be offloaded for any reason whatsoever,” it said in response to the bishop’s complaint, which had asked for a Rs 9.5-lakh compensation.

The commission noted that the priest was put on the next flight to Rome but mentioned his mental agony through the six hours he was kept waiting.

Bishop Thakur had bought a ticket for the Mumbai-Rome flight from the airline’s booking agent in July 1997. The agent allegedly told him that all the flights were packed, so it was handing him an additional ticket from Kuwait to Rome as a precaution.

But after the flight landed in Kuwait, the crew asked the priest to get off, saying his ticket was valid only for the Mumbai-Kuwait section. The bishop then learnt that his seat had been allotted to another passenger.

The airline told the commission it could not be asked to pay for an offence by its agent, which had wrongly issued the priest a confirmed ticket. The panel dismissed the argument.

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