A step towards air passengers’ freedom to use only parts of their ticket and to benefit therefore more easily from the European Internal Market of air transport
German Courts denounce airlines’ rules requiring to use all coupons of a ticket and to use them in the sequence provided in the ticket.
Can a passenger use only one coupon of his multi-coupon ticket, for instance when a ticket with connection through an airline’s hub is cheaper than the flight from the hub to the same destination? Can he buy two tickets with different directions of travel but only use the outward coupon of each? According to many airlines’ terms and conditions, this is not possible. Airlines require that passengers use all the coupons in their ticket and in sequence, otherwise they loose their validity. In such cases passengers are denied boarding on onwards or return flights or are required to pay a supplement. Airlines also sanction the client’s travel agent, whether he was informed of the client’s intentions or not, by charging them an Agent Debit Memo (ADM).
Passengers may gain the right to use their tickets as their wish, following two rulings of German Courts, which established that passengers are free to use only parts of their ticket and are entitled to make cross-bookings, i.e. to use coupons of two separate tickets for one journey. The Courts of Köln and Frankfurt consider that airlines do not suffer any prejudice when the passenger does not use some of the contracted coupons; notably because airlines have put in place overbooking systems and because they do not have to reimburse coupons that are not used. Finally, the Courts noted that passengers must not be sanctioned for making economic-driven choices; it is up to airlines to set tariffs that do not prompt passengers to make such arrangements.
ECTAA welcomes these decisions and hope that they will have a broad impact. ECTAA notes in this respect that rules on the use of coupons should not contribute to hinder the free movement of tariffs, which is not yet completed in the European Internal Market. Said ECTAA President, Mr. Jan Van Steen: “Within the Internal Market, passengers should be entitled to purchase the cheapest fares and travel agents should be able to fully accommodate their customers’ legitimate requests, instead of being prevented from doing so by unjustified rules.
Date of publication: 31/10/06