/ Travel & Leisure

Legal advice: stranded in Australia by airline

A couple were left stranded during the first wave of the pandemic, but airlines have a responsibility to pay to get you home. Here’s how we were able to help.

Which? Legal member Ray and his wife were stranded in Australia earlier this year after their flight home was cancelled due to the pandemic.

Following the cancellation, they sought assistance from Emirates to find a route home, but the responses offered very little help.

After contacting the British High Commission in Canberra and waiting several days, they were told they could fly home with Qatar Airlines at a cost of £9,223.

Article 19 of the Montreal Convention 1999

Under Article 19 of the Montreal Convention 1999, an airline must reimburse losses suffered as a result of a cancellation, if reasonable steps weren’t taken by the airline to avoid the loss.

Emirates made no attempt to assist Ray and his wife in securing flights to the UK with an alternative airline.

On our advice, they submitted a formal claim to Emirates, for the cost of the replacement flight. It was rejected on the basis that the amount sought was more than the cost of the original flight, but Ray stood firm and was eventually reimbursed for the additional sum.

The Montreal Convention establishes passenger rights in case of delayed or lost luggage, flight delays and cancellations, and certain injuries.

Article 19 of the Convention can be applied for up to two years from the intended date of travel, provided that all necessary documentation is kept. A claim can be made via the airline’s website.

Refunding passengers

Emirates told us:

“Following the temporary suspension of passenger flights as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, Emirates has worked to ensure all customers receive full applicable refunds and have completed over 1.4 million refund requests to date.

We’re pleased to hear that they have received their refund, and hope to welcome them on board again”

Have you ever been left stranded abroad by an airline before or during the coronavirus pandemic? How did the airline deal with the situation?

Were you aware of the Montreal Convention? Let us know in the comments.

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This is very helpful of Which to draw attention to the Montreal Convention. A lot of focus is quite rightly on the very well-known Regulation (EC) No 261/2004, which applies in specific scenarios where a flight either departs from an EU/UK airport or is on an EU/UK airline. But there are many other scenarios where the Montreal Convention provides additional or alternative protection, not only in the EU and UK, but in 133 countries worldwide.

I recently issued a County Court claim in respect of multiple breaches of contract by a large Polish airline, after I received plenty of helpful advice from Which Legal Service. Part of the claim comprised, under the Montreal Convention, the cost of a taxi after a delayed flight arrived too late to use public transport, but not late enough to trigger EU261 compensation. The airline recently settled the claim out of court.

If you order a computer or printer for your office at work you are not protected by consumer legislation, as I discovered many years ago.

Since many people fly in connection with their work, does the existing legislation provide the same protection that they would have if they had purchased flights as a consumer?

If you’re referring to the Consumer Rights Act 2015, then the clue is in the name – it applies to consumers.

Neither Regulation (EC) No 261/2004 nor the Montreal Convention distinguish between consumers and businesses. It’s also worth remembering that, if you are flying on business, then compensation is usually due to the passenger, not to the business that paid for the flight. So if a flight is delayed and compensation of €250 to €600 is incurred, then this is due to the passenger, not to the business that paid for the flight.

Thanks for that, NFH. All I have ever claimed for was temporarily lost luggage, but it’s interesting to know what protection we have.

Prior to the CRA we had the Sale of Goods Act, so including Consumer in the title of the CRA was helpful, and it already featured in other consumer legislation.