Ever had trouble with a contract term you felt was unfair? Here’s how we were able to help a member challenge a ‘no-show’ clause that left her out of pocket.
Which? Legal member Nicole booked Virgin Atlantic flights through a travel agent for a family holiday to New Zealand.
At the airport, a visa issue resulted in Nicole missing her outward flight. She then discovered Virgin Atlantic had a policy to cancel return flights when a passenger misses their outbound journey.
Virgin Atlantic said it couldn’t help Nicole because she had booked through an agent. She was forced to spend a total of £2,892 to rebook both outbound and return fares.
Our legal advice
We advised that Nicole’s contract was with Virgin Atlantic, making Virgin Atlantic responsible for her journey.
We pointed out that the agent, which in this instance was Gotogate.com, simply acted as an intermediary.
Virgin Atlantic sets out its terms of service in its ‘conditions of carriage’.
We advised Nicole that arguably the no-show clause in these conditions could be unfair under the Consumer Rights Act 2015, as the airline profited from a fare that wasn’t supplied, with no equivalent right to cancel.
We helped Nicole prepare a court claim against Virgin Atlantic. Before the claim went to court, Virgin Atlantic agreed to pay back 50% of the replacement flights, plus Nicole’s small claim fees – a total of £1,516.16 – in a gesture of goodwill.
It also later changed its no-show policy. Virgin Atlantic said:
We would never want to disappoint our customers, and we are sorry for the distress caused. Having worked with the CAA and listened to our customers, we have updated our policy for those who miss outbound flights.
The law on unfair conditions
You’re able to argue that any term in an airline’s conditions of carriage is unfair under the Consumer Rights Act. However, only a judge can ultimately decide whether it is indeed unfair.
We have previously called for no-show clauses to be scrapped, but if an airline enforces it, you may need to go to court to challenge it.
Have you ever encountered a similar ‘no-show’ clause? If so, did you fight it? What was the outcome?
Let us know if this has ever happened to you.