Even after a German court ordered El Al Israel Airlines Ltd. (TASE: ELAL) to compensate Israeli passengers for delays in flights taking off from airports in Europe, El Al is still insisting that the European directive does not apply to it with respect to compensation for the delayed passengers. Instead of receiving compensation for a delay of three hours or more, El Al's policy is to grant compensation only for a delay of at least eight hours in a flight, as stipulated in the Aviation Services Law (Compensation and Assistance for Flight Cancellation or Change of Conditions). This discriminates against Israeli passengers, because travelers of European origin demanding compensation for a delay in flights taking off from Europe will apparently receive it.
The matter arose from a passenger's complaint passed on to "Globes." The German court's ruling was issued two months ago, following a lawsuit filed by the Belgium-based website <a target=new href=http://www.claimit.eu/>Claimit</a>, which sues for compensation in the name of passengers whose flights took off late. The website had to go to court when foreign passengers received compensation under the European law for a number of delayed El Al flights, but Israeli passengers suffered discrimination.
El Al again claimed that the Aviation Services Law applied to Israeli passengers, and therefore denied Israelis compensation for three-hour delays under European law. European law sets the amount of compensation according to the length of the flight. Compensation varies from €250 for flights of less than 1,500 kilometers to €400 for flights of 1,500-3,500 kilometers and up to €600 in compensation for flights of more than 3,500 kilometers.
The law states that European airlines and non-European airlines taking off from a European airport must grant compensation for delays in taking off from any airport. The law does not apply to flights by non-European airlines landing at destinations in Europe if they took off from airports outside of Europe, for example a flight from Tel Aviv landing in Paris.
In the complaint obtained by "Globes," a couple demanded compensation from El Al for a delay in an El Al flight from Marseilles in October 2016 that took off more than five hours late. The demand for compensation from El Al noted that the company offered compensation in the form of a NIS 150 credit for a flight on the UP airline. The passenger refused this offer.
"El Al's representatives completely ignored the official European Union complaint form for delays in flights and European law (which ironically appears on the El Al website)," the passenger wrote to "Globes." "El Al's representatives repeated again and again that El Al was an Israeli company, and that Israeli law applied to it. That is true, but it does not negate the fact that European law also applies to it, and it must comply with both of them. They avoided stating that the European law did not apply to the flight, but simply refused to talk about it or pay compensation, even though European law applies to every passenger, regardless of nationality, and every airline (whether European or not) in a flight leaving from one of the EU countries, and therefore unquestionably to this flight."
When the German court's ruling was published last October, Claimit founder and CEO Ralph Pais expressed the same view as the passenger, saying, "El Al usually responds to our queries and compensates its European passengers as it should, but the company consistently rejects claims for compensation from its Israeli passengers. Logic says that an Israeli passenger suffers from a flight delay in exactly the same way as a European passenger, and is therefore entitled to the same compensation. It therefore follows that the only way to make the conditions for Israeli passengers the same as those for Europeans is to sue the company.
"Fortunately, the court ruled that the law in Europe applies to all passengers, regardless of national origin. El Al was forced to pay compensation and the court fees. According to our calculation, if El Al passengers sue the company for delays in flights that took off from Europe during the past two years, it will have to pay NIS 300 million."
El Al said in response, "El Al operates according to the law. The law applying in Israel, in particular the Aviation Services Law (Compensation and Assistance for Flight Cancellation or Change of Conditions) - 2012, restricts the right to monetary compensation to delays of over eight hours."
Published by Globes [online], Israel Business News - www.globes-online.com - on January 2, 2017
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