Nontract Of Carriage
Airline Contracts Of Carriage Fail To Protect Passengers

December 16, 2015 



Being an airline means never having to say you’re sorry. 

As some of you know, when you buy a ticket on an airline,
you’re really agreeing to a contract with that airline called the
Contract of Carriage. Also known in legal terms as a ‘contract
invitation’, or ‘take it or leave it’.

And without some
regulation otherwise, the airlines can pretty much say or do whatever
they want in these contracts.

They’ve recently gone beyond the normal
things, and now getting into redefining terms like Acts of God. A term
which previously meant bad weather, or war or something similar.

Now,
some airlines have reclassified their contracts to say Acts of God
includes shortages of maintenance equipment or crew, which were
considered their responsibility previously. 

The
other thing FlyersRights is watching in these contracts is that they
don’t inform passengers of some very basic rights they have – for
instance, compensation for delays.

Most people
don’t realize that since 2003 you’ve had the right to get compensation
for delays on International flights or International trips as outlined
in the Montreal Convention and the EU.

Even if the delay occurs
in the US and that amount runs up to $2600. But you will never know
that from reading these contracts or even from going on the DOT website.
We are asking the FAA to require that some basic consumer information
be included in these contracts.

Before 1978, US
airlines suffering delays or flight cancellations were obligated to
offer transportation on a competitor’s next flight if it would get the
passenger to their destination quicker. Airlines were even required to
put economy-class passengers in first class seats, if those were the
only seats available.

This rule, called Rule 240, was ordered by the now-closed Civil Aeronautics Board and was incorporated in all airlines’ contracts of carriage. The only omision was for the term, ‘Act of God’, which was given to each airline to define. It was unclear which god an airline would say was at fault for failure to have enough maintenance staff, (Loki or Coyote, both known to be trickster gods.)

Are
you traveling overseas this holiday season? Very few people are taking
advantage of flight delay compensation as outlined by the Montreal
Convention and the EU.

The treaty provides for up to $2,600 for flight
delays on international trips.  In fact, FlyersRights calculates that
it’s well over a billion dollars in lost compensations by people who
didn’t know their rights.

The treaty also provides that it’s on a
modified no fault basis. So the burden of proof is on the airlines to
prove that they took all reasonable steps to avoid the delay.

Also, there are delay compensation rights if you’re flying to or within Europe. Again, the airlines will not tell you about this and neither will the Department of Transportation.
 

Business travel writer Joe Brancatelli is
right when he says that being an airline means never having to give you
the seat for which you paid. It means never having to fly on time. It
means not having to get you home if it strands you halfway around the
world. Being an airline means never even having to fly you to the city
that appears on the ticket you purchased. Actually, being an airline
means never having to fly aircraft – which pretty much means you’re not
even an airline.


Welcome to the new Titanic

In previous columns we’ve called the cheapest seats on the plane ‘Last Class‘ instead of coach because passengers are made to feel like a third or fourth class citizens from the moment they book until they flee the airport. 
However, a better term may be “no class” or “classless” – and also keep a lookout for “pet class”, where customers travel in cargo with the animals. Pet food included!

An incident that changed history
was back in 2010 when six passengers on a Russian airline Tatarstan
Airlines were forced to stand in the aisles for their entire flight
after the wrong airplane – one with too few seats- showed up at the
airport. The flight was between Antalya, Turkey and Ekaterinburg,
Russia. It was meant to be on a 148-seat Boeing 737. Instead a 142-seat
737 showed up at the gate.

Passengers were given a choice: wait
seven hours for the next plane or spend the whole flight standing up. It
was a five-hour flight, and apparently did not breach any Russian
safety regulations. When the plane hit turbulence, the standing
passengers sat on the floor. This incident led to Ryanair and China’s
Spring Airline to consider vertical seating.

Suddenly, bundling yourself into a cardboard box and getting shipped via UPS doesn’t look so bad.

Read more about FlyersRights’ proposed Passenger Bill of Rights re. contract of carriage.

***
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Send your comments to the newsletter editor: kendallc@FlyersRights.org, or @KendallFlyers

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