Deals & Cases

Antitrust & Competition 2020-02-12
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DR & AJU Advances Consumer Rights and Alerts Airlines by Partial Winning of a Public Interest Lawsuit on Airline Consumer Damages

While consumers suffer immensely from delays and/or cancellations of flights, sufficient protections and compensations are not afforded to consumers in cases of such delays or cancellations. Airlines are evading responsibility whenever there are delays or cancellations, even if the delay or cancellation is not done for force majeure reasons such as bad weather. Poor maintenance or lack of safety measures should be the negligence of airlines, but because of provisions requiring safety first, the airlines are exempt from any liability for damages. Even if consumers are severely harmed financially, mentally, and physically, they hardly recover from the airlines.

One example is a case in 2017, where a flight departing from Danang, Vietnam was delayed for 15 hours due to a failure in the fuel system. However, Airline A failed to provide accurate information to the passengers when the flight was being delayed and did not provide sufficient service such as providing room and board after 5 hours and 20 minutes passed from the departure time.

DR & AJU represented the Korea Consumer Association on a pro bono basis, where the Association brought class action against Airline A with 69 passengers on board of the aforementioned flight. Airline A asserted it took all appropriate measures to prevent any damages to the passenger and therefore should not be liable for any damages. However, the Seoul Central District Court held “Airline A discovered the major defect in the airplane prior to the departure and expected that departure will not be possible as the required tools for repair were not secured; however, it did not take all appropriate measures which is evident from the facts such as room and board being provided only after 5 hours and 20 minutes.” The court further held Airline A to pay KRW 200,000 per passenger as damages.

From this ruling, we expect the current compensation provisions which are greatly in favor of the airlines and airlines’ indifferent attitudes will be alerted to a certain degree, thereby increasing consumer rights.