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UK court ruling may lead to six years of refunds for cancelled returns on missed flights

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Three years ago we wrote about the court decision in Huzar vs Jet2.  Jet2’s decision not to pay Mr Huzar his EU compensation has turned out to be one of the most expensive mistakes in recent aviation history, since Mr Huzar won in court.  This set a legal precedent that airlines must pay compensation due to mechanical faults and that these are not ‘out of the control’ of the airline.

Dove vs Iberia will have similar repercussions although, legally, the decision in this case is not binding.  In reality, it is unlikely any other judge would find differently unless Iberia chooses to appeal.

Iberia A330 350

James Dove booked a return flight from Gatwick to Madrid but missed the outbound flight, arriving just a few minutes late at the airport.  Rather than go home, he decided to bite the bullet and buy a one way flight with another airline, presumably easyJet.

As he had missed his outbound flight, Iberia automatically cancelled his return.  He was therefore forced to buy a new return ticket as well.  Mr Dove felt that this was unfair.  After all, the flights had been priced individually on the Iberia website and he could just as easily have booked 2 x one-way flights for the same money.

Iberia refused to refund the money for the return flight, so Mr Dove took the airline to court.  This week, he won.

Iberia may still appeal – apparently it has until next Monday to decide.

If it does not, it will open the floodgates to refund claims dating back six years (five years in Scotland).  If you have lost money since 2011 on the return leg of a flight because you failed to turn up for the outbound – and, for clarity, you can’t get money back for the outbound leg – then you should make a claim in writing to your airline.

What is unclear is what this means for ‘missed leg’ flights.  As all Head for Points readers know, booking a flight from Amsterdam to London to Hong Kong is aggressively cheaper, in premium cabins, than London to Hong Kong.  But what does this ruling mean for anyone who misses the flight in Amsterdam but still wants to turn up in London?

There is more on this story on The Independent website here.

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Comments (44)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • HiDeHi says:

    Iberia were dumb for not settling this case. They must have been 100% confident of winning which seems unfounded given that morally at least it sounds like they were in the wrong.

    • HiDeHi says:

      Also won’t this mean that anyone who had deliberately abandoned an entire return ticket because say they couldn’t get the time off to take the holiday etc. can now reclaim the cost of a return leg that they wouldn’t have taken even if it hadn’t been cancelled once they missed their outward leg? Sounds messy.

      • Paul says:

        Yes that’s what I’m wondering

      • Gavin T says:

        Surely your claim isn’t for the original cost of the inbound flight, but for the new ticket you had to book to replace the flight the airline unreasonably cancelled?

        If you never travelled you wouldn’t have a loss to claim for.

        • pr99 says:

          In this case your claim would be for the airline refusing to carry you on the return leg you had paid for.

          If you had turned up and were carried or if the airline said they would carry you but you didn’t turn up then you wouldn’t have a claim.

  • Stu R says:

    I guess that, where flights are priced individually, it’d be better to book them as two singles rather than a return? I’m afraid we always turn up at the airport hours before we need to, in order that we don’t end up in this situation …. hopefully!

    • Erico1875 says:

      Problem then is if the outbound is cancelled, you are stuck with the inbound

      • Frenske says:

        I hope this does not mean that BA and others does not allow to buy single tickets and not showing them. Pricing individually makes it easier to find better deals. I don’t agree with that the finding that because the pricing is individual for individual flights, it should be considered as 2 single flights. Pretty sure when the flight was searched the customer has chosen a RETURN flight as option and not ONE WAY.

        That said, air lines should not cancel the return flights one-sided especially since customer paid for the service. They could have contacted the customer and give him time up to 24h before the return flight to make a decision regarding the return flight. Other option perhaps give the customer a chance to recoup some of the costs of the return flight. BA is making a lot of money on missed flights.

  • Chris says:

    On claims against cancelled flights…I am right that I’m unable to claim anything from American Airlines for a cancelled flight from Chicago to Manchester in 2013 ain’t i as the carrier has to be EU or the flight has to be in the EU?

  • Cheshire Pete says:

    I’ve been in dispute with Iberia since our Easter break to Alicante where they delivered our bags over 24 hours late due to our Madrid connection being late(their fault). They turned down our receipts and awarded us €25 each(2 bags) and then their Madrid customer services ignore pretty much anything you say to them with an 18 day response for each reply.

    It’s the worst CS experience I’ve ever encountered. It’s now with my credit card CCA department.

  • JamesB says:

    When it suits them BA, and likely most other airlines, exploit individual flight sectors for their own benefit such as reducing cash or miles refunded. I’m sure they will be up in arms about this but most passengers will be happy Dove won and despite any effort by the airlines I hope this sticks. It is another reason I love Air Asia, they have no such nonsense and any return flight is still available to use irrespective of reason for not using outward sector.

  • Jason Hindle says:

    For the flight in question, it looks like the airline failed to demonstrate any advantage to booking the return vs two one way flights. For missed leg flights, on split tickets, the individual airline should be able to demonstrate an advantage to travelling on one PNR, though they may need to update their wording. I’m in two minds about this case. You should turn up on time! I’ve made made a very similar mistake. It ended well for me, perhaps because I consumed a slice of humble pie before throwing myself at the mercy of the AA ticket office at MAN*.

    * Having missed my MAN – LHR leg, they changed my routing to MAN ->ORR->LAX->NAN for the outbound, and saved me a lot of explaining to beloved employer (and charged me just £60 for the change).

  • Leo says:

    I know that bloke. Very odd to wake up to this story….

  • Alan says:

    Interesting case. If they’re sensible then Iberia won’t appeal this so that they avoid setting legal precedent – they seemed silly to fight it anyway given the small sum involved vs court costs!

    Of course this only said they had to refund the return leg, so not quite dealing with the other ex-EU flight of leaving from somewhere other than the UK but routing via London – always folk wanting to miss the first leg but this would only give them an ability to claim back flight costs, not to still take the itinerary if joining from London.

    • Leo says:

      Its only a Deputy District Judge here. A part-timer whose knowledge and expertise may be in a completely different area.

      • Alan says:

        I’m just meaning the lack of precedent, which they risk if they take it to appeal and lose…

      • Lesley says:

        That’s extremely dismissive. A deputy district judge could have been sitting for a long time and be considerably more experienced than a full time newbie. In my experience DDJs are quite capable of being better than the full time equivalent. The point here was James Dove was able to show that he was not trying to play the system but had a genuine need of both tickets – I suspect that may be key to a win and will not therefore help people who only want one part of a ticket and therefore do not turn up be able to claim. Also what you get is not the cost of the alternative but a refund of only the return journey – you lose the cost of the outbound journey. All airlines are being asked to do is refund the cost of the return leg if they cancel it.

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