Airlines may be breaking law with no-show clauses

12th Dec 2018

The consumer group Which? has claimed that airlines may be breaking consumer law by cancelling a traveller’s entire itinerary if they don’t check in for one flight.

The majority of carriers have a policy in place whereby all legs of an air ticket are automatically cancelled if the outbound flight is not caught. Typically, no refund is issued in such cases and the seats can be resold, meaning that airlines can potentially double their money. 

In some cases, passengers may be forced to purchase another seat on the same flight at a greatly inflated price, or pay a fine to use their original ticket. 

Airlines claim that no-show clauses are in place to prevent tariff abuse, a scenario where passengers buy cheaper tickets with no intention of flying on the whole itinerary in order to save money. 

However, Which? has found that the rule is applied even if there is no financial advantage to the passenger, or if a transport problem has led to them missing the flight. 

The consumer group also said that statements on the issue are “often buried deep in airline terms and conditions”. British Airways, Emirates, Flybe and Virgin Atlantic all include no-show clauses in their terms and conditions. EasyJet, Jet2, Norwegian, Ryanair and Tui do not have a no-show clause. 

Which? is writing to nine carriers to warn them that the practice may be breaching both the Consumer Rights Act and the Unfair Terms in Consumer Contracts Directive, with the legal letters part of a joint action with consumer groups in eight countries across Europe. 

Alex Neill, Which? Managing Director of Home Products and Services, said: “Missing a flight because you’re stuck in traffic or on a delayed train is frustrating enough, but for the airline to then turn around and say your return journey is cancelled as well is completely unfair and unjustified. 

“We don’t think there’s any good reason for a ‘no-show clause’ to exist – it only works in favour of the airline. It should be removed immediately by airlines, who need to show more respect for their passengers.”

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