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Air India duty manager at Heathrow demoted me from business class to economy from London to Delhi. He said my seat was broken but it turns out another seat was broken and my seat was given to someone else. I am a senior citizen lady and the duty manager was quite rude and patronizing.

My question is should I have been compensated? In the US I have seen airlines asking for volunteers and compensating passengers for the inconvenience, but Air India offered me nothing. Is there anything I can do now?

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    Did you pay for business class, or where you upgraded due to frequent flier status, or something similar? If you paid I'd think you're due the difference in prices at the very least. – SpaceDog Sep 27 '15 at 2:03
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    EU261 downgrade compensation should apply, as the flight departed from the EU – Gagravarr Sep 27 '15 at 9:41
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    @pnuts Under EC 261/2004 the compensation is 75% of the ticket cost. Some airlines will try to pro-rata that by the affected flight length (so for a downgrade of half a round trip, a total discount of 37.5% would apply, which seems eminently reasonable). Whether AI would agree to that is another matter, personally I would send a letter before action to their UK address if they didn't agree to it within a couple of phone calls, and then go straight to MCOL, but obviously one should take that action under one's own counsel. – Calchas Sep 28 '15 at 21:15
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Assuming you paid money for the ticket then, yes, you are due a refund. Gagravarr links to the EU rules (EU261) but there's also Air India's Conditions of Carriage [PDF], which states:

6.4 SEATING
Carrier does not guarantee to provide any particular seat in the aircraft and the passenger agrees to accept any seat that may be allotted on the flight in the class of service for which the ticket has been issued.

Which would then mean that the following section should apply:

11.3 INVOLUNTARY REFUNDS
If Carrier cancels a flight, fails to operate a flight reasonable according to schedule, fails to stop at a point to which the passenger is destined or ticketed to stop over, is unable to provide previously confirmed space or causes the passenger to miss a connecting flight on which the passenger holds a reservation, the amount of the refunds shall be:
11.3.1 If no portion of the ticket has been used, an amount equal to the fare paid;
11.3.2 If a portion of the ticket has been used, the refund will be the higher of;
11.3.3 The one way fare (less applicable discounts and charges) from point of interruption to destination or point of next stopover, or
11.3.4 The difference between the fare paid and the fare for the transportation used.

Also, they in section 3 it implies that they should have offered you a seat on the next flight with business class space, rather than bumping you down to economy.

Finally their FAQ states that you both get a refund and how to get it:

Q.If I have been downgraded on my flight, do I qualify for a refund?
A. Yes In case of involuntary downgrading, due to a change in aircraft, after completion of travel, you need to send the ticket jacket with the boarding cards to the Refunds section and as per the applicable fare rule a refund will be processed. In case of a downgrade and if you are transferred to any other airline the case is treated as a ‘transportation credit’ where a message has to be sent to the respective airline, our Central accounts and the IATA billing section, and only then is the refund processed. The ticket copy and the boarding card also need to be sent for this refund.

Although that does say 'change of aircraft' I think taking all of these together makes it clear that if you paid for the flight you're due a refund. If you purchased the flight, or an upgrade, using frequent flier miles then I'd expect the most you can hope for is to get (some of) them refunded. However, if you were upgraded by the airline for free then I doubt you have any rights to a refund.

You say it wasn't your seat that was broken, I'm guessing what happened here is that there's an issue with a business class seat and whoever is in charge decided to either bump the person with the cheapest ticket and/or the person they thought would cause least fuss. Or possibly the person who has least evidence of flying regularly.

None of that means that they shouldn't refund you something, which means the question is how to get the refund.

As it says above you need to submit the required documents, if you don't have them anymore I'd try calling someone in the customer service center, the numbers are on the contact page. Explain what happened, have dates and flight numbers available. It may be useful to call first even if you have the documents and ask if submitting electronic versions of the documents is acceptable. I'm not sure it's worth mentioning the attitude of the duty manager as it looks like their process is quite clear and the amount of the refund is probably fixed.

That's the process you should follow, but be aware that it may take a fairly long time to get any money back. One other thing you could consider doing is sending them a message on Twitter. Something like

@airindiain Bumped from business to econ, AIxyz on xTh Sept, manager very rude, no refund offered, terrible way to treat a senior citizen

That's just under the character limit. That way you make the complaint public, and I doubt any company will want to let something like that go unanswered for very long.

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    (+1) Complete with a ready-made tweet to complain, that's a detailed answer! – Relaxed Sep 28 '15 at 11:09
  • For the Twitter trick to work, it helps if you have at least a thousand followers. – Ayesh K Sep 28 '15 at 18:39

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