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.