Introduction

In April 2018 the Tel Aviv Magistrates Court declined a passenger's claim that Turkish Airlines should compensate him for being denied boarding.(1) The court concluded that the plaintiff had failed to arrive at the departure gate on time and that he had known, or should have known, the final boarding time for passengers.

Facts

The plaintiff purchased tickets for a flight from Tel Aviv to Istanbul, followed by a flight from Istanbul to Delhi, which was due to depart at 19:45.

The flight from Tel Aviv landed in Istanbul at 18:00 and the plaintiff claimed that he approached the area beside the departure gate in order to wait for the connecting flight at approximately 19:15. Since there was a long queue at the gate, the plaintiff decided to wait nearby and work on his laptop. The plaintiff argued that when he finally approached the gate at 19:30 (15 minutes before departure), he was told that the gate was closed and that he was not allowed to board the flight.

The plaintiff was rebooked on a flight to Delhi the following day, for which he was charged €180 in flight change fees.

Plaintiff's claims The plaintiff argued that:

  • he was denied boarding despite the fact that he arrived 15 minutes before the scheduled departure time;
  • the flight departed at 20:06, approximately 35 minutes after he arrived at the gate;
  • there was no final announcement notifying passengers to board;
  • Turkish Airlines did not notify passengers of the final boarding time properly;
  • he was poorly treated by Turkish Airlines employees, who only offered him an alternative flight on the following day – for which he was charged flight change fees; and
  • Turkish Airlines purposely withheld his luggage, thus forcing him to purchase necessary items for his stay in Istanbul.

The plaintiff argued that he was entitled to a refund for the flight change fee and for expenses incurred during his enforced stay in Istanbul (eg, hotel, clothes, toiletries and faxes), as well as compensation for the damage that he sustained by wasting his time and missing meetings in Delhi.

Turkish Airlines' response Turkish Airlines rejected the plaintiff's claim that he arrived at the gate 15 minutes before departure, arguing that he was in fact late to arrive at the gate. As evidence, Turkish Airlines presented a report which revealed that the last passengers boarded the flight at 19:30; therefore, if the plaintiff had arrived with them at the gate, he could have boarded the flight. In addition, Turkish Airlines submitted a document which showed that the plaintiff's ticket was removed from the passenger list at 19:41.

The airline argued that since it is the passenger's responsibility to arrive at the gate on time, it should not bear any liability and the claim should be declined.

Further, it argued that since it took all reasonable measures to prevent damages, it should not be obliged to compensate the plaintiff, referring to Article 19 of the Montreal Convention.

Lastly, the airline argued that the plaintiff's damages were not proven and that, either way, the plaintiff's demands were exaggerated and he had not tried to mitigate them.

Decision

The court sided with Turkish Airlines and declined the plaintiff's claim that the airline did not announce the final boarding time properly on the grounds that his boarding ticket (which was attached to the claim) explicitly stated that passengers were required to arrive at the gate 15 minutes before the departure time and that this information was published in additional ways. The court held that Turkish Airlines was under no obligation to call all of its passengers and that, either way, it is possible that the plaintiff was focused on his work, causing him to miss the call.

The court stated that Turkish Airlines is entitled to set reasonable requirements which passengers must adhere to in order to board a plane and that arriving at the gate 15 minutes before departure is a reasonable requirement.

Further, the court held that as Turkish Airlines was not responsible for the plaintiff's conduct, it was entitled to charge him an additional fee for the alternative flight ticket.

The court found that the sums demanded by the plaintiff were exaggerated and that had he demanded lower amounts, the parties may have been able to reach an out-of-court agreement.

Finally, the court criticised the plaintiff for proceeding with the claim and for cross-examining the witnesses, despite the fact that Turkish Airlines agreed not to do so. Therefore, the court imposed a penalty of NIS15,000 (approximately US$4,300) on the plaintiff for Turkish Airlines' legal fees.

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) FP (Tel Aviv) 35945-12-16 Shlomo Cohen v Turkish Airlines.

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