According to the Aviation Services Law (Compensation and Assistance due to Cancellation of a Flight or Change in its Conditions) 2012 (ASL), passengers are entitled to, among other things, fixed compensation in case of a flight cancellation, unless the operator proves that:
- the cancellation was based on one of the causes listed in Clause 6(e) of the ASL (eg, special circumstances which were out of the operator's control); and
- even if it had done everything in its power, the operator could not have prevented the cancellation of the flight.
The ASL defines a 'cancelled flight' as one which:
- does not depart; or
- departs with a delay of more than eight hours.
The term 'flight' is defined as a "flight from or to Israel, including a stopover".
For flights including several segments, various Small Claims Court judgments have considered flights cancelled and awarded compensation where there has been a delay of less than eight hours in the first segment of the flight which results in passengers missing their connecting flight or reaching their final destination with a delay of over eight hours.
In Petach Tikva, the Small Claims Court rejected a claim filed by two passengers that their flight should be considered a cancelled flight. The delay in the first segment of the claimants' flight was less than eight hours, but they reached their final destination with a delay of more than eight hours.(1)
The plaintiffs booked tickets from Honolulu to San Francisco and from San Francisco to Israel with United Airlines (UA).
The departure of the Honolulu to San Francisco segment was delayed by 45 minutes and landed with a delay of 26 minutes. As a result, the plaintiffs missed their flight from San Francisco to Israel. UA provided the plaintiffs with an alternative flight, accommodation and meal vouchers. The plaintiffs arrived in Israel with a 24-hour delay.
The plaintiffs argued that they had purchased their tickets as one package from the same airline with a stopover in San Francisco. Conversely, UA argued that the plaintiffs:
- had purchased their flights separately online; and
- had chosen a route which included a 45-minute stopover.
As a result, UA argued that the ASL did not apply, as the Honolulu to San Francisco flight was delayed by only 45 minutes and the flight from San Francisco to Israel departed on time.
The Small Claims Courts rejected the claim and found that the plaintiffs were not entitled to compensation beyond the alternative flight and assistance which they had been provided.
The court stated that the route which the plaintiffs had chosen was not offered as a single package by the airline. A UA representative had explained at the hearing that although the flight from San Francisco to Israel departs at a specific time, the internal flight from Honolulu to San Francisco is available at various times and the plaintiffs could have chosen another flight with a longer connection time.
The court stated that when an airline offers a closed ticket from point A to point B through point C and there is a delay in one of the segments which affects the next segment, there is the basis to consider that the flight is a cancelled flight.
Conversely, where passengers combine two flights from the same airline with a short connection time, they risk missing the second segment if the first segment is delayed.
As a result, the court found that UA did not need to pay compensation for a cancelled flight in the above case.
The court stated that the above distinction corresponds with the legislature's explanation under the ASL, in which it was stated that the law aims to standardise the assistance and compensation offered to passengers who do not board their flight due to circumstances that are beyond their control.
In the case at hand, the passengers chose a flight with a 45-minute connection time, thus taking the risk of missing their connection upon themselves.
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