In theory the European Union has the strongest consumer air travel protections. Its EU261 requires cash compensation for many flight delays.
In practice enforcement is tough to make happen. European airlines were far worse than U.S. ones providing refunds for cancelled flights during Covid, and carriers often ignore or erroneously deny claims. Customers have been known to send bailiffs to airline offices to enforce claims, and one airline even cancelled a flight to avoid paying $276.
Nonetheless one lawyer who has practically made a career out of enforcing airline rules in court has filed a lawsuit against an airline to get them to pay the cost of a private jet for his client after an overbooking caused the passenger to be denied boarding.
- Passenger’s flight was overbooked
- Asked to be rebooked on the next flight (with a different airline), this was refused
- After all possible commercial options were exhausted to reach destination same day, they chartered a plane
- They’re now suing for slightly over $25,000
The passengers were scheduled to fly Düsseldorf to Palma de Mallorca. The flight was ovebooked, but no one sought volunteers. They were ultiamtely offered one seat and not two. The lawyer contends the airline breached their contractual and regulatory obligations and failed to take steps to mitigate the harm that caused. Via Google translate, the attorney suggests the Düsseldorf court has already contemplated a private aircraft in this situation (‘the court has already mentioned the term “Learjet”’) and says “Challenge accepted, here I am, the lawsuit was filed today.”
I haven’t seen anyone claim the cost of a private jet against an airline under EU261 before. This lawyer has taken on some novel consumer rights cases in Europe. (They’re a frequent flyer aficionado themselves, posting under kexbox on German message board vielfliegertreff.de.) They’ve even beaten back Lufthansa’s attempt to collect a fare different from a passenger who threw away segments via hidden city ticketing and beat back Air France’s claim that travel agents are responsible for paying passenger compensation not the airline.
This will be interesting to watch. If the passenger wins, and the precedent spreads, it would certainly raise the cost of overbookings in Europe – if only because airlines would have to make sure passengers involuntarily denied boarding are made whole.