Airline liable when travel agent fails to pass on information
In the recent ECJ case of Krijsman v SLM a travel agent failed to inform a passenger in time that his flight had been cancelled and the date of his departure had been changed. If the agent had passed on information from the airline to the passenger in a timely manner the passenger would have known more than two weeks in advance of the changes to the schedule. As it was, he was informed less than two weeks before departure. This resulted in a claim by the passenger against the airline for compensation under Regulation 261/2004 on denied boarding, cancellations and long delays. If the passenger had received the information more than two weeks prior to departure no compensation is payable under the Regulation. The airline pleaded that informing the travel agent was sufficient but the ECJ held otherwise. The court said that the burden of proof was on the airline to show that the passenger was informed of the cancellation more than two weeks before departure and as they were not able to do that then compensation was payable.
Moreover they went on to say:
“ … this interpretation applies not only when the contract for carriage has been entered into directly between the passenger concerned and the air carrier, but also when that contract has been entered into via a third party such as … an online travel agency.”
Interestingly, from a common law perspective, they did not feel it necessary to go into the question of whose agent the travel agent is – an issue which has dogged the courts in this country and to which no satisfactory answer has yet been given.