I fought the law and I won
Know your rights; too often, the airlines “fail” to mention the law.
Air France-KLM airliner Photo: REUTERS
Mrs. Mizrahi wrote to me asking me for help. Her son had fallen in love
with a new immigrant and, as many young couples are wont to do, decided to get
married in the spring. As Sandy, our young ingénue from Atlanta, had no family
in Israel, it was decided that the nuptials would be exchanged in
Starting the process to get US visas for the Israelis was no
simple task, and shopping around for several tickets to Atlanta in the spring
also proved time-consuming.
Fortunately for them, Sandy had a friend in a
large travel agency in Tel Aviv who patiently sent them several options.
Finally, six tickets were purchased for May and paid for in full, and the
planning for the event moved forward.
Unfortunately, what is often
planned can be put asunder, and as the cold weather descended throughout Israel,
Sandy had a change of heart and called off the wedding. Her timing couldn’t have
been worse, as it transpired only one week after the Mizrahis paid their travel
consultant over $7,400 in cash.
The travel consultant, while sympathetic
to their plight, had been forthright when the tickets were purchased; explaining
in full detail that the cancellation fee was $240 per ticket or $1,440 for the
Asking to speak to the manager of the travel agency,
Mizrahi was told that the information had been given both orally and by email
and that nothing could be done to minimize the hefty cancellation fees.
am contacted quite often with puzzles and challenges; none have been easier than
this one was to solve.
I wrote back to Mrs. Mizrahi explaining that in
Israel we have a consumer protection law that states quite clearly that a
transaction may be cancelled within 14 days, provided it’s at least 18 working
days prior to the beginning of the trip. (In this case they had paid in February
for tickets for May) This right of cancellation does not apply on tourism
services that wholly take place outside of Israel. So an Easy Jet Flight from
London to Paris or a Southwest ticket from LA to Las Vegas is not covered if you
have to cancel. The rule is that the airline or tourism package must originate
from inside Israel.
If the above conditions are met, the consumer will be
charged five percent of the total price of the ticket, or NIS 100, whichever is
lower. When I told her that the most the agency could charge her was NIS 600,
she contacted the agency. The following morning, she was refunded the full
amount minus NIS 600, and later that day I found a lovely bottle of wine on my
Know your rights; too often, the airlines “fail” to mention the
law. Many travel consultants have also forgotten about the law. Very little
noise has been made about this and, in all honesty, expecting the airlines not
to behave superciliously would be naive.
THE SPRING and summer seasons
are approaching, and the skies and the airport terminals will be
Airlines do overbook; connections will be missed.
Israeli Consumer Council offers explanations of your rights that the airlines
would prefer you don’t know:
FLIGHT DELAYS AND CANCELLATIONS
departs 8 hours after the time stated on her ticket. What is her compensation?
1. The airline must administer food and drink commensurate with her waiting
time. They must put her up in a hotel if the delay is overnight or longer, must
provide transportation between the hotel and the airport and allow her access to
email and telephones.
2. She is eligible for hard cash compensation of
between $350 and $800, depending upon the length of the flight. Her flight
distance was about 4,500 kilometers, so she was eligible for $540.
could have gotten a full refund on her ticket or asked for a new ticket and
still received cash compensation.
If she opted for a new ticket, the cash
compensation would be lowered.
Will I receive cash compensation if my
flight is canceled because of, say, another Hurricane Sandy? No. Airlines and
service providers do not have to offer compensation if they can prove that the
delay is due to something beyond their control and they did everything they
could to prevent the cancellation.
Weather delays fall under the category
of “Acts of God,” as do labor strikes.
Koby was informed of his flight
cancellation in advance. Is he still eligible for compensation? Not always. He
was offered an alternative flight, so he may not receive compensation under
1.If he was informed of the cancellation at least a week
before the scheduled departure, the new departure time is no more than an hour
before the originally scheduled departure and the new arrival time is no more
than two hours after the originally scheduled landing.
2.If he was
informed of the cancellation between seven and 14 days before the scheduled
departure, the new departure time is no more than two hours before the
originally scheduled departure and the new arrival time is no more than four
hours after the originally scheduled landing.
3.If he was informed of the
cancellation at least 14 days in advance, regardless of the when the alternative
flight is scheduled for.
Barbara’s flight took off several
hours late. What is her compensation? It depends on the length of the delay.
Once the delay is at least two hours long, the airline must provide food, drinks
and email and phone services. After five hours, the airline is obligated to
offer a refund or a ticket for an alternative flight. If you opt for an
alternative flight that departs the following day, the airline must also offer
hotel accommodations and transportation.
If the delay is due to a strike
at the airport, is Barbara entitled to compensation? If the delay is at least
two hours, the airline must provide food and drinks, and if the delay is between
five and eight hours, it must offer a cash refund. It is not obligated to offer
an alternative ticket.
Travelers are also entitled to compensation if
their flight’s departure is moved forward by several hours.
the table of delayed departures, the amount one is eligible for is tied to the
length of the flight.
What happens if a flight was overbooked
and the airline took me off the flight without my agreement? 1.The airline must
provide food and drink commensurate with the length of the delay, a hotel room
if the delay is overnight or longer, transportation between the airport and the
hotel, and money for phone calls.
2.You are eligible for financial
compensation based on the length of the flight.
3.You are entitled to a
cash refund on your ticket within 21 days of requesting it.
airlines offer clients credit that can be used for future travel and that often
cannot even be transferred. Know your rights – the airlines are obliged to give
you cash! Understand, as well, that airport employees are often under intense
pressure and rarely see the entire picture. If you are bumped from one flight
and put on another, the airline clerk may fail to look at the rest of your
itinerary. This can result in the computer cancelling the rest of your flights,
since you “missed” your original flight. Always make sure that you verify your
entire itinerary and demand an updated e-ticket.
To paraphrase Forrest
Gump: “Travelling is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going
to get.” The least you can do is to know your rights.
The author is the
CEO of Ziontours Jerusalem.