Temporary amendments to the Aviation Service Law were recently presented to Parliament to help airlines deal with customer compensation claims during the COVID-19 pandemic, while industry players are also in discussions with the Ministry of Finance about possible government assistance. This video discusses these issues as well as the ever-increasing number of class actions filed against airlines in Israel over the past decade.
The Tel Aviv District Court recently approved an appeal filed by Ukraine International Airlines 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. The decision overturned a Small Claims Court decision and provides clarity on the meaning of a 'cancelled flight' under Israeli law.
In most cases, flights are operated by aircraft that arrive at an airport from a previous flight. As such, flights are sometimes delayed or cancelled due to a delay or cancellation of the previous flight. The Tel Aviv District Court recently denied a motion for leave to appeal filed by a passenger whose claim regarding the cancellation of his flight due to lightning damage to the aircraft which had occurred during the previous flight was denied by the Tel Aviv Small Claims Court.
The Small Claims Court recently rejected two passengers' claim that their flight should be considered a cancelled flight under the Aviation Services Law. The case examined whether an airline should pay compensation for a missed connecting flight when passengers book two flights from the same company with a short connection time.
Under the Aviation Services Law (Compensation and Assistance for Flight Cancellation or Change of Conditions), passengers who are denied boarding are entitled to compensation. However, in two recent district court judgments concerning passengers that were denied boarding, the courts found that passengers must arrive at the boarding gate on time. As this duty had not been fulfilled in either case, the airlines were not obliged to pay compensation.
The Beit Shean Small Claims Court recently declined a claim for compensation under the Aviation Services Law due to a delayed flight. The plaintiff had booked a return flight from Tel Aviv to Amsterdam with Arkia Airlines, which arrived in Amsterdam late after a nine-and-a-half-hour delay due to a technical fault. The court dismissed the claim and found that Arkia had proved that the technical malfunction had been caused by a fault in the aircraft's wing shelving, which had been beyond the airline's control.
The Tel Aviv Small Claims Court recently declined a passenger's claim for compensation against Qantas and Worldwide Travel and Tourism Ltd, concluding that as the flight in question was a domestic flight within New Zealand, Israeli law did not apply. The court stated that a 'flight operator' is defined in Clause 1 of the Aviation Services Law as an operator that operates flights to and from Israel. Therefore, the law does not apply when connecting flights to Israel are operated by a different airline.
The Tel Aviv Magistrates Court recently declined a passenger's claim that Turkish Airlines should compensate him for being denied boarding. 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.
The Jerusalem Small Claims Court and the Netanya Small Claims Court both recently dismissed compensation claims for baggage delays, as the passengers did not comply with the Montreal Convention, according to which a complaint must be submitted within 21 days from the date of receipt of the baggage. However, the latter court ordered the airline to cover the plaintiffs' expenses, holding that the plaintiffs had clearly approached the court in good faith and that the airline's conduct had been inappropriate.
The Tel Aviv Magistrates Court recently declined a passenger's claim for bodily injury damages after it concluded that the event which was the subject matter of the claim was not considered to be an 'accident' as defined by the Montreal Convention. The plaintiff had filed a claim against El Al, arguing that he had been injured after eating a cake served to passengers.
The Rehovot Magistrate Court recently ruled that a flight that had departed on time, but been forced to return to the point of departure following a five-hour flight due to technical malfunctions, was a cancelled flight in accordance with the Aviation Services Law. Although there is no binding precedent, the courts have – in lower-instance decisions concerning the law – applied it in cases where the circumstances did not meet the literal interpretation of the law regarding cancelled flights.
The Jerusalem Magistrates Court recently dismissed a claim for bodily injury caused to a passenger during a flight, as the claim had been filed more than two years after the plaintiff had reached his destination. The court referred to the Montreal Convention and the Carriage by Air Law, which provide that the right to a claim will be extinguished after a two-year period, despite the local Limitation Law providing a seven-year limitation period from the date of an admission of liability.
Since 2012 various lower court judgments have held that technical malfunctions which cause delays or cancellations to flights are not considered 'special circumstances' which exempt the carrier from paying the monetary compensation set by the Aviation Services Law. However, the Netanya Small Claims Court recently denied a claim and determined that a technical malfunction in an aircraft which caused a flight delay constituted special circumstances.
The Petach Tikva Small Claims Court recently held that the Montreal Convention did not apply to an internal flight between two destinations in Spain, and that an Israeli court had jurisdiction to hear the claim. The court held that the convention does not apply in the case of an internal flight where the place of departure and destination are in the same country.
The Tel Aviv Magistrate Court recently dismissed a claim based on the Aviation Services Law 2012 for compensation due to a downgrade in respect of a flight ticket purchased with flight points. The court addressed significant issues in its decision, including the right to compensation for passengers who did not pay for their flight ticket and whether full or partial compensation should be paid for a downgrade on only one flight segment.
The Tel Aviv Small Claims Court recently ruled that the cancellation of a flight due to severe weather conditions constituted special circumstances under the Aviation Services Law and rejected passenger claims against Delta Airlines. The law provides that passengers are ineligible for financial compensation if an operator can prove that a flight cancellation was due to special circumstances beyond its control.
A recent district court decision approved a third-party notice filed against Cessna Aircraft Company (a US company) through Kamor Aviation Ltd, its representative in Israel. The decision concerned a claim filed against the Civil Aviation Authority, FN Aviation and others following a fatal accident involving a Cessna aircraft and whether Kamor was authorised to receive court documents on behalf of Cessna in Israel.
The Tel Aviv Magistrates Court recently declined a motion to dismiss a claim (with prejudice) filed against the Israel Airport Authority for bodily injury caused to a plaintiff while disembarking an aircraft. The court analysed whether the exclusive claim provision set by the Montreal Convention prevented an injured party from filing a claim against other third parties.
The Tel Aviv Magistrate Court recently ordered Continental Airlines to compensate a passenger for bodily injuries sustained while on board one of its aircraft. The court held that the accident occurred due to an unexpected event external to the plaintiff, and therefore lifted the plaintiff's burden to prove that it was compensable damage as defined in Article 17 of the Warsaw Convention.
The Tel Aviv Magistrate Court recently handed down judgment in Arie Goldman v El Al Airlines and obliged El Al to indemnify the plaintiff for bodily injuries sustained during take-off. El Al denied liability based on Article 21 of the Warsaw Convention and argued that the plaintiff should bear total liability as he acted contrary to the airline's instructions.
The Ramle Magistrates Court recently accepted part of a claim filed against El Al Israel Airlines for direct damages sustained as a result of the late arrival of baggage. However, the court rejected the plaintiffs' claim for mental anguish caused by the delay under the terms of the Montreal Convention.
The Magistrates Court of Kiryat Gat recently handed down a judgment in Svetlana Podvinski v EL AL Airlines. The court ordered EL AL to compensate a passenger who had refused to pay for 9 kilograms of overweight baggage and, as a result, remained in Belarus until she found an alternative flight one week later.
In recent judgments handed down by two small claims courts in Tel Aviv and Hakrayot, the courts accepted the defendants' argument that claims filed against them were time barred. In the second case the court stated that the two-year limitation period is absolute and cannot be changed based on the circumstances detailed in the General Limitation Law, as this may alter the limitation period for filing claims.
A petty claims court recently awarded a plaintiff compensation for mental anguish, even though no direct losses were proven. The court stated that on certain occasions it is appropriate to award damages for mental anguish to passengers – for example, when declining such compensation would lead to unjustified enrichment of the carrier or would frustrate the object of the law and the Montreal Convention.
Since the law on the assistance and compensation given to passengers whose flights are delayed or cancelled came into force last year, the Israeli courts have dealt with a number of claims based on its provisions. In one such case, the judge examined the basis for the special circumstances under which an air carrier will be exempt from paying compensation to passengers following a flight delay.
The Magistrates Court of Tel Aviv recently declined Virgin Atlantic's request to stay the proceedings against it and rejected its argument that the Israeli court was not the appropriate forum to hear a claim filed against it by Israeli citizens. Virgin Atlantic had argued that according to the 'majority of links' test, the claim should be heard in London; the plaintiffs instead argued that most of the ties connected the claim to the Israeli court.
The Magistrates Court of Tel Aviv recently stated that negligence did not constitute a cause of action under the Warsaw Convention and the Carriage by Air Law. The court accepted the argument that the "occurrence which caused the damage" took place while the shipment was no longer under the control and supervision of the carrier. The case centred on failure to store a shipment under refrigeration while awaiting collection.
The Tel Aviv District Court was recently requested to reconsider a case involving the application of the Warsaw Convention when interpreting the term 'for reward' in relation to the crash of a helicopter that had been leased. On hearing the additional evidence presented by the parties, the court concluded that the Warsaw Convention was indeed applicable to the flight and dismissed the claim as time barred.
The Supreme Court recently ruled that although a general sales agent agreement may include an arbitration clause, when the parties ignore the clause and take actions that indicate their unwillingness to apply it, this stipulation will be considered void. A general expression of willingness to satisfy an arbitration clause is insufficient if a party's actions reveal otherwise.
The Tel Aviv District Court recently reversed a 2010 magistrates court decision in which it had been decided that Maman Cargo (an airport warehouse) was the carrier's agent, in a case relating to shipments stolen in transit. The district court decided that it was sufficient that Maman's services were compulsory for aircraft companies in order for the Warsaw Convention not to apply thereto.
The Tel Aviv District Court, in an appeal, recently ordered Austrian Airlines to compensate plaintiffs following an unreasonable flight delay, which had been caused by damage to the pilot's cockpit window. The court concluded that the appellants had proved the delay and further ruled that the carrier had not proved its defence, as it had provided no proof relating to measures taken to trace the fault in advance.
In a recent case the Acre Magistrates Court considered whether, under the Warsaw Convention, an airline was liable for damage to a passenger's luggage during transit. After assessing the case the court applied Article 25 of the convention and determined that the claim under consideration was not subject to the limitation of indemnity provided for by Article 22 of the convention.
In a recent decision the Petah Tikva District Court considered the interpretation of Articles 29(1) and 29(2) of the Warsaw Convention in Israel. A subrogation claim had been filed by the National Insurance Institute against an aircraft carrier. The district court declined the motion and held that the two-year limitation period set by the convention is an absolute provision which may not be extended by the provisions of local law.
In a recent judgment by the Tel Aviv Magistrates Court, the court accepted a bodily injury claim filed by a passenger who was injured when sliding down an evacuation slide that had been deployed after smoke was observed in the aircraft after landing. Despite the fact that the court had applied the Warsaw Convention to the flight, the compensation to the plaintiff was not limited according to the provisions of the convention.
The Rishon Le-Zion Magistrates' Court recently handed down judgment in a case involving eight claims filed by passengers as a result of a 17-hour delay in a flight from Israel to Turkey. Some of the passengers decided not to take the delayed flight and thus claimed for a full refund; other passengers took the delayed flight and claimed for damages (mainly for mental anguish) caused by the delay.
A recent court judgment analysed the applicability of the Warsaw Convention to a carrier's agent for shipments stolen in transit. The court ruled that limited liability (under the convention) applied to both the shipments' forwarder and the warehouse which stored the shipments at the airport. The forwarder's employee was convicted of theft and must face full liability. The case has been appealed.
In 2001 a Siberia Airlines plane was hit by a Ukrainian Army rocket and crashed over the Black Sea. In 2008 the Tel Aviv District Court dealt with the issue of whether the two-year limitation period provided under the Warsaw Convention may be extended based on the Israeli Law of Limitation 1958. The court ruled that under unique circumstances it is possible to extend the convention's short prescription period.
In a recent judgment the Tel Aviv District Court interpreted the term 'for reward' when applying the Warsaw Convention to the crash of a helicopter which had been leased. The court dismissed the claim against the aircraft operator and its insurers due to the fact that the two-year limitation period had elapsed before the claim was filed.
By signing a discharge and release form, an insured declares that it has received payment of insurance benefits from the insurer and waives any future claim against the insurer. A recent case involved a plaintiff's refusal to sign a discharge and release form due to differences of opinion between the loss adjuster and the insured.