Passengers can sue airlines if their return flight gets cancelled without warning according to Civil Aviation Authority




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PASSENGERS who have their return flight cancelled after missing their outbound flight can sue the airline if they are declined boarding.

The Civil Aviation Authority’s (CAA) latest report claims that a number of airlines have unfair terms and conditions which allow travellers to take the airline to court.

Passengers who miss their outbound flight could sue if their return flight is cancelled
Getty – Contributor

Passengers who miss their outbound flight could sue if their return flight is cancelled[/caption]

Currently, airlines are able to automatically cancel a passenger’s return flight if they miss their first one, even if it is for reasons outside of their control.

This is to prevent passengers from taking advantage of cheaper fares, for example when a return flight is cheaper than a single flight – also known as ‘skiplagging’.

Passengers can contact their airline immediately after missing the first flight to make sure their second flight is not cancelled – however the report found that not only can airlines still cancel the ticket, but many passengers are not aware of this practice.

Therefore the CAA state that passengers could sue the airline if they are denied boarding in this instance.


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The airlines which do not meet the CAA standards of good practice in regard to missed outbound flights are Air France/KLM, British Airways, Flybe, Aer Lingus, and Lufthansa.

Air France/KLM do not cancel the return ticket but passengers must pay an additional fixed fee to be able to fly on the return flight, with no exception.

British Airways passengers must also pay the difference between the original fare and the recalculated fare, similar to Flybe, Aer Lingus and Lufthansa.

This is not the case for Air France passengers in Italy or Lufthansa passengers in Austria, who do not have to pay the difference in costs.

The CAA claim passengers should be able to miss their flight and still have their return flight
The CAA claim passengers should be able to miss their flight and still have their return flight
Getty – Contributor

In the report, the CAA claim: “The CAA would like to note that the contract terms on ticket use of the IATA airlines, and in particular those of Aer Lingus, Air France/KLM, British Airways, Flybe and Lufthansa, could provide the basis for legal challenge, including from individual passengers impacted by them – i.e. passengers that have missed their outbound flights but arrive at the airport for their return or onward flights but are denied boarding by the airline.”

However, they also add that the success of the legal case depends on other factors such as the discretion staff are able to use to waive the difference in fees to pay, as well as how passengers are assisted if they are not able to board.

Airlines such as easyJet, Ryanair, Jet2, Thomas Cook and TUI do not currently cancel the return ticket if the first leg of the journey is missed.

Following the report, Virgin and Emirates changed their policy to allow passengers to travel on their return ticket free of charge provided they contact they airline and the reason was out of their control – although the CAA urges both airlines to also amend the T&C’s to contact passengers in regard to their return flight.

A British Airways spokesperson told Sun Online Travel: “Many of our tickets allow customers to make changes to their flights if they inform us before they travel.

“We believe that being upfront with customers is essential, so we work hard to give them the information they need when travelling with us, and ensure that our terms and conditions are very clear on our website, ba.com.

“This policy is common practice in the industry and designed to stop the abuse of our fares.”

What is skiplagging?

Passengers who want to save money can book a flight with a stopover, only to skip the second leg of the journey.

For example, a flight from London to Boston might be too expensive, although a flight from London to Las Vegas with a stopover to Boston is cheaper.

The passenger could then just fly the first leg of the flight, only to skip the second half and have saved money.

This is known as skiplagging.


Earlier this year, Lufthansa revealed they were suing a passenger who didn’t show up for his booked flight, after booking it to intentionally miss it for a cheaper fare.

In 2017, a man who took Iberia to court after missing his flight only to have his return flight cancelled won the case and was able to get a refund of his return flight.

Sun Online Travel has contacted the mentioned airlines for comment.

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