In December 2020 the Bat-Yam Magistrates Court partially accepted a claim filed against Sundor International Airways Ltd(1) by two passengers (the plaintiffs) who were prevented from transferring their flight tickets to their relatives after one of them suffered an unexpected physical disability.
The Court ruled that Sundor's comprehensive refusal to permit such a transfer was not allowed – in particular, because the reason for the prohibition was not adequately clear.(2)
On 28 December 2017 both plaintiffs purchased non-refundable flight tickets via Sundor's website. A week before the scheduled date of the flight, the plaintiffs asked to transfer the tickets to their relatives due to a physical restriction that was suddenly imposed on them. Even though a summary of the terms and conditions had been sent to the plaintiffs – which they had read and accepted – the full terms and conditions included a reference to the issue of transferring tickets that was not included in the summary.
Sundor's representative, with whom the plaintiffs communicated, claimed that transferring flight tickets to others is forbidden according to international aviation laws. However, in an affidavit of the defendant's witness, it was argued that the forbidden procedure correlates with the defendant's policy and regulations, but does not derive from international legislation.(3) Further, the defendant claimed in the statement of defence that such transfer was not permitted since the tickets were discounted; nevertheless, the witness later alleged that neither regular nor discounted tickets were eligible to be transferred.
After hearing the witnesses and based on the evidence presented, the Court reached the conclusion that the contract of carriage between the airline and the passenger did not include a clear provision according to which the plaintiffs were not entitled to transfer or convert their tickets to others.
The judge stated that by reaching this conclusion, the claim could have been accepted. Having said that, the Court also examined whether Sundor's position could be accepted if the contract of carriage had included a provision that ruled out the right to transfer a ticket to another person.
The judge stated that Sundor had not presented relevant reasons to justify the decision to prevent the plaintiffs from transferring their tickets to others. As there were no security, economic or other reasons for the denial of the transfer, the judge ruled that the condition which denied the right to transfer tickets was invalid.
The defendant argued that because no mention is made in the Consumer Protection Law to the right to transfer tickets to others (but the right of cancellation is mentioned), the proper interpretation of the law was that such transfers were not allowed. However, the judge declined this argument.
The Court stated that such a provision may constitute a prejudicing provision according to the Standard Contracts Law 1982. Therefore, Sundor was obliged to allow the plaintiffs to realise their rights to transfer the tickets to others. The judge stated that this provision would provide Sundor with disproportionate protection while substantially prejudicing the public.
The judge did not accept plaintiffs' argument for mental anguish and therefore awarded them only 8,163 new Israeli shekels for the cost of the tickets and their legal expenses.
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 ([email protected] or [email protected]). The Levitan, Sharon & Co website can be accessed at www.israelinsurancelaw.com.
(1) Subsidiary of El Al Airlines Ltd.
(2) Lifshitz v Sun D'or international airways Ltd, Bay Yam Magistrate Court (CA 58288-02-20).
(3) In the past, the International Air Transport Association did forbid transfers of flight tickets; however, it is now only a suggestion.