The Tel Aviv District Court recently approved an appeal filed by Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) and determined that the provision of alternative flight tickets resulting in a delay of less than eight hours following a delay in the first segment of a journey did not constitute the cancellation of a flight under the Aviation Services Law (compensation and assistance due to flight cancellations or change of conditions) 2012 (ASL).
The plaintiffs purchased flights from Ben Gurion Airport to Bangkok via Kiev.
Due to a delay in the first segment of the flight from Tel Aviv to Kiev, it was apparent that the plaintiffs would miss their connecting flight from Kiev to Bangkok.
The plaintiffs received alternative tickets to fly directly from Tel Aviv to Bangkok with El Al Airlines.
At the end of the day, they reached their final destination (Bangkok) with a delay of five hours.
The plaintiffs argued that the UIA had not provided assistance services during the waiting period between flights.
As a result, the plaintiffs demanded:
- statutory fixed compensation under the ASL for a cancelled flight;
- exemplary damages;
- compensation for the lack of assistance services; and
- the amount paid for the El Al tickets, as their original tickets had been upgraded.
The ASL defines a 'cancelled flight' as a flight that does not exist or a flight which departs with a delay of at least eight hours.
The UIA argued that the plaintiffs' delay in departure was less than eight hours and therefore should not be considered a cancelled flight. The flight from Tel Aviv to Kiev departed with a delay of four hours and 21 minutes and the UIA claimed that the plaintiffs were responsible for their choice to wait at the airport for 11 hours in order to fly with a different airline.
The Small Claims Court accepted the claim and determined that missing a connecting flight due to a delay in the first segment of a flight can be considered a cancelled flight.
The above decision was made on the basis of previous Small Claims Court judgments in which it was decided that a delay in the first segment of a flight which results in missing a connecting flight and reaching the final destination with a delay of more than eight hours could be considered a cancelled flight according to the ASL.
The Small Claims Court further determined that as far as the plaintiffs were concerned, the flight from Kiev to Bangkok that night was a "flight which did not exist".
The court awarded the plaintiffs statutory fixed compensation of NIS1,310, NIS300 for not providing assistance services at the airport and an additional NIS320 for upgrading their tickets.
In total, the UIA was obliged to pay NIS9,000 plus NIS1,000 in legal costs.
As the above decision was a Small Claims Court judgment for which there is no right of appeal, the UIA filed a motion for leave to appeal the Small Claims Court decision, arguing that the interpretation that the ASL had provided to the lower court was too broad and required appellate court intervention.
The Tel Aviv District Court stated that this was one of the rare cases which justified district court intervention in a Small Claims Court judgment, as there was no basis to determine that the flight in question should have been considered a cancelled flight.
The first segment of the flight had departed with a delay of less than eight hours. The plaintiffs had decided not to board this flight, but to take an alternative flight instead. Therefore, the plaintiffs did not suffer a delay to their connecting flight.
The district court also decided that there was no basis to impose payment of compensation for assistance services on the UIA, as the statement of claim and the judgment did not include details of the sum awarded.
In addition, there was no basis for the other parts of the claim and especially no basis to award exemplary damages.
Due to the power gap between the parties, the district court did not impose legal costs on the plaintiffs.