Small claims victory in denied boarding case

30th March 2021 by admin

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The Abayasekara family purchased tickets to fly from Heathrow to Sri Lanka via Abu Dhabi. The tickets were sold by Jet Airways but the flights were operated by Etihad Airways on a codeshare agreement.

Before the flights took place Jet Airways went bust and when the family presented themselves at check-in they were denied boarding on the grounds that they had ‘inadequate documentation’. Etihad claimed that the tickets had been ‘rescinded’ because Jet Airways, being bankrupt, were no longer part of IATA’s clearing house system – in other words Etihad had probably not been paid. The family sued Etihad in the Small Claims Track in Southampton County Court for compensation for denied boarding under Regulation 261/2004.

In a brief judgment delivered on 18 February, 2021 Deputy District Judge Clark gave short shrift to Etihad’s defence. Prefacing his remarks by saying that the purpose of the Regulation was to ensure ‘a high level of protection for passengers’ the judge went on to say that as Etihad were the operating carrier they were responsible for the flights; that the family had not been informed that their tickets had been rescinded or the consequences of that rescission; and that there was nothing wrong with the documentation. As for the issues between Jet Airways and Etihad, that was a matter for them.

As well as compensation under Regulation 261 of £527.16 for each of the family costs of £365 were awarded.

The case is of course of little value as a precedent but it is consistent with the heavily pro-consumer stance taken by the European Court of Justice – for which passengers can be duly grateful.

The judgment can be read here.

[Source: Hayward Baker, Solicitors, Fareham]

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