We set out below a short summary of a recent Israeli court judgment involving aviation law, which may be of interest to you. The judgement includes consideration of the airline’s internal records, including, inter alia, letters sent by the airline in response to the passenger complaints and the court’s rejection of attempts by the airline to raise contradicting arguments.
Small Claim 53033-02-18 Elazar Cohen v. American Airlines Ltd.
The plaintiffs traveled from Tel Aviv to Chicago via Miami. The flight from Tel-Aviv to Miami was operated by El Al Israel Airlines Ltd and that from Miami to Chicago by American Airlines Ltd (“AA”).
The plaintiffs, two Israeli businessmen, contend that they arrived at Miami airport on time, but were then unexpectedly delayed by a lengthy security check, eventually causing Plaintiff 2 to arrive at the boarding gate thirty-five minutes before takeoff and Plaintiff 1 five minutes later (thirty minutes before take-off). Although Plaintiff 2 requested the AA representatives at the flight gate to wait for Plaintiff 1, they were both removed from the flight and told that three other passengers would take their place and fly in their stead.
According to the claim, AA did not offer the plaintiffs a suitable alternative flight and did not reimburse them for the new tickets they were forced to purchase. The plaintiffs argued that their removal from the flight was unlawful and was an opportunistic move on the part of AA to make a profit from the overbooked flight and demanded damages in accordance with the Israeli Aviation Services Law (Compensation and Assistance for Cancellation of Flight or Changes in its Conditions), 2012 (“ASL”).
In its statement of defence AA argued, inter alia, that the ASL did not apply, as the flight from Miami to Chicago was not a connection flight, but an independent “stand- alone” flight and, accordingly, that the ASL did not apply. In this regard, AA contended that the plaintiffs’ flight from Miami to Chicago was governed by the Laws of the State of Texas, which require passengers to check-in at least forty-five minutes prior to takeoff and, therefore, that they are not obliged to reimburse the plaintiffs for their flight tickets. AA argued, in the alternative, that even according to the ASL, the plaintiffs had arrived late at the airport and, for that reason, were not entitled to receive any compensation.
The Court held AA liable for the damages caused by cancellation of the Plaintiffs’ flight.
In its judgement the court considered AA’s letter of response to a complaint filed by the plaintiffs after they got back home. In the said letter, AA referred to the flight in question as a connection flight. The court also examined internal papers submitted to it by AA and concluded that the flight was also treated in AA’s internal records as a connecting flight. The letter also refers to the ASL as the applicable law, in complete contrast to what was argued before the court.
Based on these findings, the court concluded that the ASL did apply and found that the plaintiffs had arrived at the airport within the mandated time and were entitled to damages. In the light of AA’s conduct, the Court ordered the airline to pay both monetary and punitive compensation in accordance with the ASL.
While decisions of the small claims courts do not constitute binding precedents, they may be referred to by other courts in their rulings.
If you have any questions or require further information on this judgement or related topics, please do not hesitate to contact us.
This Memorandum is not a legal opinion, is not a substitute for legal advice, and is not intended for readers to rely on it as a legal opinion. In any case, you should seek professional legal advice.