We provide below a short summary of a recent Israeli court judgment involving aviation law, which may be of interest to you. The judgment concerns the division of responsibility between a flight operator and a passenger, for damages caused to the passenger who reached the area of the flight gate sufficient time in advance, but actually approached the gate itself only shortly after it had closed.
Civil Claim 35945-12-16 Cohen v. Turkish Airlines
The plaintiff purchased a ticket for a two-segment flight operated by Turkish Airlines (“Turkish”) from Tel-Aviv to Istanbul and from Istanbul to New-Delhi.
The plaintiff arrived at Istanbul airport and got to the connection flight’s flight gate 30 minutes before scheduled take-off. Because the plaintiff did not want to queue for boarding, he sat near the gate, waiting for the queue to end and using the time to read emails on his laptop. Without the plaintiff noticing, boarding ended and the gate was closed. Though the gate had closed, the plaintiff asked Turkish’s representatives to allow him to board the flight (which had not yet left), but was refused.
The plaintiff was then issued tickets for an alternative flight to New-Delhi, which was scheduled to depart the following day, and was charged a flight change fee of €180.
The plaintiff sought compensation from Turkish, pursuant to section 5 of the Israeli Aviation Services Law (Compensation and Assistance for Cancellation of Flight or Changes in its Conditions), 2012 (“the ASL”), for damages allegedly caused to him because he missed the flight, as well as almost €4,700 for mental anguish. The plaintiff further alleged that Turkish’s representatives had treated him disrespectfully and had deliberately hid his luggage.
In response, Turkish argued that it is a passenger’s sole responsibility to be present at the flight gate on time and that Turkish is under no duty to permit passengers, who arrive late at the gate, to board its flights. Turkish denied that its representatives had acted maliciously or with intent to cause him harm.
The court held that there is a material difference between being late for a flight and being denied boarding and, hence, that section 5 of the ASL (which deals with denial of boarding) did not apply in the circumstances.
The court agreed that it is a passenger’s sole responsibility to be present at the flight gate on time, that Turkish’s requirement that its passengers be present at the flight gate at a certain time prior to departure, was entirely reasonable, and that the plaintiff was, or at least should have been, aware of the said requirement, given the “flight information display system” installed at the airport and the information provided in his flight ticket.
The court held that in the circumstances, Turkish had no obligation to announce the plaintiff’s name using the public address system or to make special efforts to assist him to board the flight as it was the plaintiff’s own negligence which caused him to miss the flight.
Further, Turkish was within its rights in preventing the plaintiff from boarding the flight after the flight gate had closed.
Since Turkish bore no responsibility for the plaintiff missing his flight, it was under no obligation to offer the plaintiff an alternative flight ticket free of charge and, accordingly, justifiably charged him a fee for the flight change.
Given the above, the court rejected the claim in its entirety and ordered the plaintiff to pay Turkish legal costs of NIS 15,000 (approximately €3,590).
Though decisions of the Magistrates 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 regarding this judgment or the topics concerned, please do not hesitate to contact us.