Thought leadership from our experts

Reimbursement of ticket price in the case of booking cancellation by the passenger

The Regional Court in Frankfurt (appeal court) has rendered several judgments in respect of the airline's obligations if the passenger cancels his booking of flights. In all judgments, the Regional Court took the same view: An airline cannot automatically keep the ticket price when a passenger cancels his booking. The landmark decisions regarding this issue were rendered on 6 June 2014, 2 March 2016 and 22 December 2016.

Firstly, the Regional Court made clear that, in the case that the passenger cancels his booking, the taxes and charges must definitely and always be reimbursed as the airline also does not have to pay them in respect of the respective passenger when the passenger does not take the flight. Therefore, since the airline does not suffer a loss in respect of these amounts, the court argued that the airline is not entitled to keep these funds.

As regards the fare, the Regional Court held that the airline must prove which expenses the airline saved because of not carrying the Plaintiff and which other revenues it had. This means that the airline must especially prove whether the Plaintiff's seat could be sold to another person and for which price.

If the airline does not put forward whether the seat could be sold otherwise, the Court assumed that the seat was indeed sold to another passenger, especially if there were several months between the passenger's cancellation of the booking and the actual flight. The Court reasoned that, since the seat was sold to someone else, the airline did not suffer a damage because of the passenger's cancellation and, therefore, the complete ticket price had to be reimbursed.

The Court argued that the ticket price cannot be kept per se if the passenger does not travel as it is considered to be unfair by German courts if the full price must be paid even if the airline does not suffer a damage as they have sold the seat to someone else.

In practice, this would mean that the ticket price would have to be reimbursed if the flight was fully booked as then the airline would not have suffered a damage because of the passenger's cancellation.

The fact that the passenger may have paid a lower price for having a non-refundable ticket was not taken into account by the Court.

The Court also held that other amounts that the airline saved since the passenger did not travel must also be deducted, such as meal costs or lower fuel costs.

The Court further held that a clause in the Terms in Conditions of an airline stating that the ticket price is generally not reimbursable, is void.

In summary, the taxes and charges always have to be reimbursed to the passenger and the fare only if the airline has not suffered a damage because of the booking cancellation, i.e. if the relevant flight was fully booked.

For further information, please contact:

Claudia Hess, chess@udabo.de

Rainer Amann, amann@udabo.de