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Jain on plane

Swiss airline fined in India for serving meat meal

An Indian passenger whose vegetarian meal was accidentally switched for one containing meat has succeeded in obtaining financial compensation at an Indian consumer tribunal. However, his attempts at enhancing the compensation were rejected. 

The passenger is a follower of the Jain religion whose central tenet is non-violence towards all living things. It advocates a strict form of vegetarianism which excludes meat, eggs and vegetables that grow underground such as potatoes, onion and garlic. Acts that go against the religious teachings are believed to attract bad karma, which can lead to suffering. 

The Mumbai-based passenger claimed to have discovered the error when a fellow traveler pointed it out to him on a flight from Zurich to Mumbai in 2011. He filed a “deficiency of service” case at the district consumer court in Mumbai which awarded him INR20,000 (CHF297) in compensation, along with INR10,000 in court expenses for hurting his religious sentiments. In addition, Swiss International Airlines (SWISS) had offered him a complimentary business upgrade on an economy class flight to or from Europe as a gesture of goodwill. 

However, the Jain man was unhappy with the decision and appealed it at the state and national level. On August 19, the National Consumer Disputes Redressal Commission in Delhi ruled that he had been adequately compensated taking into consideration that it could not be proved he had actually consumed any portion of the wrong meal. 

“When realizing the mistake, the cabin crew member immediately handed over the correct special meal which the passengers had pre-ordered,” a SWISS spokesperson told swissinfo.ch. 

SWISS currently operates seven weekly flights from Zurich to Mumbai and Delhi. It offers a wide variety of meal options such as the “Vegetarian Jain meal” that the Indian traveller had booked for himself. Other offerings that cater to religious strictures include Kosher, Halal and Hindu meals.

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