In a recent Beit Shean Small Claims Court decision, the court declined a claim for compensation as a result of flight cancellation under the Aviation Services Law (Compensation and Assistance due to cancellation of flight or change in its condition) 2012 due to a technical malfunction.(1)

Facts

The plaintiff booked a return flight from Tel Aviv to Amsterdam with Arkia Airlines. The flight from Tel Aviv took off on time; however, due to a technical malfunction, the aircraft had to return to Tel Aviv and the plaintiff arrived in Amsterdam after a nine-and-a-half-hour delay.

Arkia's arguments

Arkia argued that prior to take-off, the aircraft had been inspected and found to be in working order.

However, soon after take-off the wing shelving had got stuck and the flight could not continue under those conditions. Arkia argued that there had been no problem with the aircraft during its previous flight.

Arkia further argued that as the aircraft had been loaded with fuel, it needed to fly over the Mediterranean Sea for three hours in order to burn the fuel prior to landing.

The passengers were updated throughout the flight and Arkia handed out complimentary sandwiches and drinks to all passengers.

After landing, it transpired that the malfunction was severe and the aircraft was grounded. An alternative aircraft was brought from Rhodes. The alternative flight was supposed to take off at 12:15pm but was delayed until 2:30pm for operational reasons as a result of fires at the airport, an issue which was out of Arkia's control.

Arkia argued that the above circumstances fall within the scope of the exemption under Clause 6(c)(1) of the Aviation Services Law, according to which operators are exempt from paying fixed compensation where the cancellation of a flight is due to circumstances that are beyond their control.

Decision

The court concluded that by presenting records relating to the aircraft's malfunction, Arkia had proved that the technical malfunction had been due to a fault in the aircraft's wing shelving.

Arkia also brought a representative to the hearing who was able to provide further details concerning the default. The representative explained that the wing shelving unit in question comprises seven pieces and that three months prior to the flight all of said units had been replaced.

The court accepted the argument that since the product was new, the problem that had resulted in the aircraft returning to Tel Aviv had more than likely been a manufacturing fault which Arkia could not have anticipated.

The court stated that safety considerations take precedence above all other matters and presumably the plaintiff would agree that where there is even the smallest possibility of potential danger to passenger safety due to an aircraft malfunction, repairs must be carried out posthaste, even if they result in flight delays.

The court also found that Arkia's conduct, including providing passengers with information about the nature of the malfunction and coupons for free food and beverages, had been appropriate and practical.

The plaintiff's claim was declined.

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 52259-09-18 Avraham v Arkia Israeli Airlines.

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