In two recent judgments, the Tel Aviv Small Claims Court ruled that the cancellation of a flight due to severe weather conditions constituted special circumstances under the Aviation Services Law (Compensation and Assistance for Flight Cancellation or Change of Conditions) 2012.(1) The claims, filed by passengers against Delta Airlines, were rejected.

Facts

In both cases, the plaintiffs were due to fly to Israel on October 2 2014 from John F Kennedy International Airport (JFK). Due to severe weather conditions the flight did not depart on time.

Israeli airspace was planned to be closed the following day due to Yom Kippur, so Delta arranged alternative flights for the plaintiffs on October 4 2014. It also provided them with hotel rooms and travel expenses until the alternative flight departed.

Under the Aviation Services Law, a 'cancelled flight' is a flight that did not take place or that departed with a delay of at least eight hours.

Under Clause 6 of the Aviation Services Law, in the case of a cancelled flight a passenger is entitled to:

  • assistance services;
  • reimbursement of travel costs or an alternative ticket; and
  • financial compensation.(2)

Clause 6(e)(1) provides that passengers are ineligible for financial compensation if an operator can prove that the cancellation was due to special circumstances out of its control and could not have presented the cancellation even if it had done everything in its power.

Levi claim

The plaintiffs claimed financial compensation under Clause 6(A)(3) of the Aviation Services Law. The court decided that the flight had been cancelled due to severe weather conditions in several airports in the United States. As a result, flights from other airports were directed to JFK, which resulted in the overloading of flights.

The court decided that the above circumstances were the result of severe weather conditions and could therefore be considered special circumstances beyond the operator's control. The court referred to two small claims court judgments in which it was decided that severe weather conditions can be considered as special circumstances.(3)

The court rejected the plaintiffs' argument that the flight's cancellation was due to the overloading of flights at JFK and not the severe weather conditions, as the overloading had been caused by the weather conditions which were beyond the operator's control.

The court applied Clause 6(e )(1) of the Aviation Services Law and rejected the claim.

Farjun claim

The plaintiff claimed IS500 for food and IS10,000 for mental anguish. The court denied the claim and stated that Delta's conduct had been unexceptional and in accordance with the Aviation Service Laws, as it had aimed to prevent or minimise the inconvenience caused to passengers waiting for an alternative flight.

The court further stated that aviation is influenced by numerous constraints which may cause disruption to flight schedules. This includes severe weather conditions, which can jeopardise passenger safety and are considered to be a force majeure beyond the carrier's control.

In this case, Delta had no discretion of its own and was subject to guidance from the control tower that the flight could not depart.

For further information on this topic please contact Peggy Sharon or Keren Marco at Levitan, Sharon & Co by telephone (+972 3 688 6768) or email (peggysh@levitansharon.co.il or kerenm@levitansharon.co.il). The Levitan, Sharon & Co website can be accessed at www.israelinsurancelaw.com.

Endnotes

(1) SC (Tel Aviv) 584-05-15, Farjun v Delta Airlines (by Judge Mario Klein) and SC 52485-03-15, Amit Levi v Delta Airlines (by Judge Isca Rotenberg).

(2) A fixed amount which is based on the distance of the flight.

(3) SC 32988-10-12, Ayala Shoshana v Arkia Airlines and SC 35457-04-14, Ana Ofir v Aviation Connections.

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