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In Fine Print, Airlines Make It Harder to Fight for Passenger Rights

As air travel reopens and flight bookings begin to creep up, AvGeeks — aviation geeks — and others may notice some new legalese in the fine print when they buy plane tickets. More and more carriers are adding clauses that require passengers to settle disputes with the airline in private arbitration, rather than in court, and bar passengers from starting or joining class-action lawsuits. In early April, American Airlines updated its contract of carriage, a standard industry document that… ( 기타...

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aspeedbump 12
Airlines have the right to lawyer themselves out of business I guess. I love to fly, I love aviation in general, I love to travel... but these days, unless there's an ocean, or several time zones between me and my destination, I'll chose to drive myself.
The fun, and more importantly, the dignity has been sucked out of the travel experience.
Sad. Damn corrupt air carriers.
Maybe not corrupt, but certainly greedy.
Rob Hall 3
WestJet refused to refund me for an Easter trip to UK (YYZ-LGW-YYZ), offering a travel voucher only. I called Visa and disputed the charge for 'frustration of contract', got the money back from Visa within a week.
I'm pretty sure they have no power in whether or not people are allowed to file class action lawsuits.
jptq63 1
Typically, contracts are binding, so if it is part of the contract, then people get stuck. It will be interesting to see what happens over time and if regulations step in or if an arbiter says, yes, the law says you are legally to get your money back, but you can not have it....
Absent action in the courts I doubt the airlines will honor even the extremely narrow conditions under which they are required to provide refunds. I had round-trip tickets to Hawaii via Delta for late April/May 2020, purchased late February (just before COVID measures commenced). When it became obvious my flights would not take place (Delta had suspended service), I began unwinding my travel bookings. Because my flights were booked through Costco, Delta wouldn't take my call directly. Costco's telephone lines were overwhelmed; on-line they used a form that only allowed a choice between accepting a partial refund or a voucher because *I* was cancelling my vacation (ha!). After finally getting through on Costco's telephone line, I was told on two separate occasions that I didn't understand the rules and that a refund wasn't "required" because Delta was offering a voucher. The voucher they offered had to be used by the end of December 2020 (highly unlikely). I responded by citing Delta's own contract of carriage Rule 22 (refund required for flight cancelled by airline), I was told (again) that I didn't understand the rules and that I was wrong. On my third call I asked to speak with a supervisor after getting the same initial responses as before, which yielded the explanation that Delta hadn't yet "canceled" the flight (just suspended service!), where upon I politely told the supervisor that I would call back again the day before the flight when it would obviously be canceled, thanked him for taking my call, and hung up the phone. About 2 minutes later my phone rang, with the supervisor on the line. He apologized for the inconvenience and agreed to refund the full cost of the flights. Whether the refund came from Costco or Delta I'll never know. The entire system was rigged to avoid the refund required by DOT rules and Delta's own "contract of carriage".
DOT has come down on the U.S. airlines for these shenanigans, but unfortunately Air Canada thinks it's exempt despite my flight originating in the U.S. My AC flight for last month was canceled (service to my city suspended entirely), and AC had the gall to retroactively alter their contract of carriage for tickets already purchased. (Only vouchers rather than refunds will now be offered for cancellations "outside the airline's control", which is whatever they feel like.)

I've filed a DOT complaint and, predictably, they're stalling.
Rob Hall 3
If you paid by Credit Card, you may want to give them a call - worked for me with WestJet. Quote 'frustration of contract'. They can't deliver the trip you have paid for, assuming your flight(s) was cancelled.
I'll do that (will have to call since the tickets were paid for so long ago, they've fallen off my online statements), but I don't hold out much hope - Going by a thread on Flyertalk, AmEx seems to be siding with the airlines on COVID cancellations.
so many of the tickets sold in recent years at the economy fare rates are non states that on the ticket and when you buy it you are told that fact..many first class tickets are booked wit frequent flyer miles or some other points program,and no actual cash is exchanged..the airlines have the right to change their rules of carriage,just as any business can change their refund policies or procedures,as so many do where you are given a credit rather than an actual refund of money or to a credit card..if you choose to be part of a class action lawsuit,you generally wind up with very little monetarily,as its generally pennies on the dollar,and not a full refund of what you feel you are due..its spread out over those including themselves and also the attorneys involved..the airlines are trying to survive,as are most businesses now, and rest assured people have become accustomed to flying....
In the U.S., even "non-refundable" tickets must be refunded if the airline cancels the flight or has a schedule change/significant delay and the passenger chooses not to travel. This is by DOT rules <>. The "refundable" nature of the ticket is in relation to whether the customer gets a refund when the customer cancels their travel. The availability of the court system as a remedy is a must, because the airlines have already demonstrated their bad faith in the recent COVID-19 crisis. The airlines engaged in significant deceptive actions to get customers to say the customer was "canceling" (even though flights were suspended) so that they did not have to provide refunds, and apparently flat out refused to provide required refunds even when the airline canceled the flight. Yes, airlines are businesses that are trying to survive, and most airline policies are heavily weighted in favor of the airlines for that reason. However, "needing to survive" doesn't justify deception and fraud in order to avoid a clear responsibility to provide refunds in the extremely narrow/limited circumstances that remain. Simply put, the airlines could not deliver the goods/services they sold to the customer, and the customers were due their money back. An attempt to require arbitration is an attempt to further stack the deck in their own favor.


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