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UK Airline: Wrongfully Denied Boarding

Discussion in 'Consumer Law, Contracts, Warranties' started by Gsteve, Sep 30, 2021.

  1. Gsteve

    Gsteve Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Jurisdiction:
    California
    I was taking flight from US (SFO) to UK London (LHR) to India (DEL). This is single journey no halt intended in UK.

    All international flights require that you should have COVID test completed within 72 hours of beginning of your journey. We were within this timeframe. On arrival at SFO, the airline staff refused us check-in stating that 72 hour requirement is from LHR (which is our next stop 12 hours later). Our COVID test would have been outside 72 hour limit by then.

    So we argued whether 72 hour window is for first flight or last. I showed him CDC website where it states clearly 72 hours is from first flight (I can provide the link). But the staff showed us their "employee guideline" that stated 72 hours has to be from LHR. We stopped arguing and came back home. I called govt office of India and they confirmed 72 hours is from first flight (SFO). Later Delhi Airport official twitter confirmed on their public twitter account, which i have documented.

    Clearly we were wrongfully denied boarding as we were in compliant to requirements. Airline had their procedures wrongly documented. As a result, we lost few hundreds (hotel, new COVID, taxi, etc.) and vacation got cut by 3 days. We lived in extreme stress for 2 days till we got on flight.

    What kind attorney can help me? This is a major airline from UK (not BA). Should i pursue small claims court. Or please help me understand if i dont have a case... and why not.

    PS: I have picture of their procedure guide, which is incorrect and conflicting to guidelines from CDC and India. Airline COVID rules email did not state anything about 72 hours from LHR.
     
  2. Tax Counsel

    Tax Counsel Well-Known Member

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    Any attorney who litigates contract claims, ideally one familiar with the unique rules that apply to suing airlines.

    I don't see hiring a lawyer for this as being worthwhile. The fees you pay are likely to far exceed what you'd get from the airline for this. Small claims would likely be your best bet.

    Whether the airline owes you anything and what limits there are on your compensation would depend on that airline's contract of carriage. Each airline will have one and that forms the basis of your contract with the airline. Many have their contracts/conditions of carriage posted on their websites.
     
    justblue likes this.
  3. Gsteve

    Gsteve Law Topic Starter New Member

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    thank you for reply. Airline is Virgin Atlantic and they have filed for Chapter 15 bankruptcy. Does that give them additional protection or makes my case weaker?
     
  4. Tax Counsel

    Tax Counsel Well-Known Member

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    It likely makes no difference to your claim as it arises after the bankruptcy petition was filed and this would be a regular cost of doing business. However, a Chapter 15 is an ancillary bankruptcy case — the main bankruptcy proceeding would take place in another country, likely the UK in this instance. I don't know if any UK bankruptcy rules might impact this.
     
  5. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    The problem I see is that Virgin Atlantic's contract of carriage allows them to refuse to allow you to fly with them if:
    "13.1
    .
    .
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    (y) You have refused or failed to undergo health screening or a health examination requested by us or by a government or enforcement agency;"
    (https://flywith.virginatlantic.com/...rriage/conditions-of-carriage-revision-39.pdf)



    They requested proof of the health screening and you were unable to provide it.
     
  6. Tax Counsel

    Tax Counsel Well-Known Member

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    Not so. The dispute here is not over whether the test was done, but rather what standard is used for measuring when the test had to be done: was it 72 hours before the first leg of the trip, or 72 hours before the last leg of the trip? The answer to that will determine if the boarding was wrongfully denied, as nothing else in the contract of carriage directly addresses it. And as the OP correctly notes, the company's covid testing page does not spell it out. All it says is: "Complete your test in the 3 days before your international flight and receive your fit-to-fly certificate." So I think it's not clear what the requirement was that the OP had to follow, and when the rules written by the other side are unclear then usually the courts hold that ambiguity against the drafter. That's particularly the case in these one sided consumer agreements like this one where the consumer really has no opportunity to bargain over terms. As a result the OP might have a shot to win something out of this.
     
  7. Zigner

    Zigner Well-Known Member

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    Yes, I worded it poorly. In essence, though, the test was not done as required by the airline. In other words, if the test was done too early, then it wasn't done as required.

    Having said that, I agree that such a claim (by the airline) is tenuous at best. The OP should be able to negotiate something, although it might not be as much as s/he is hoping for.
     
  8. Tax Counsel

    Tax Counsel Well-Known Member

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    The airline rep at the airport obviously thought so. But the question is whether that rep was correct. If the rep was not correct then the boarding was wrongfully denied. And if the ' rules on the matter are not clear — and I don't see anything clear on the matter on its web site — that ambiguity will work against it.
     
  9. PayrollHRGuy

    PayrollHRGuy Well-Known Member

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    Here is some pretty good guidance from UK.gov

    When to take your test
    You can take the test any time in the 3 days before the service on which you will arrive in England departs.

    For example, if you travel directly to England on Friday, you could take a test any time on the Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday or Friday. The test result must be available for boarding.

    Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing before you travel to England
     
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  10. Gsteve

    Gsteve Law Topic Starter New Member

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  11. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    I'm confused. Saying your vacation got cut short implies you were vacationing in India and that you live in the U.S. If that's the case, you should have SAVED money on hotels.

    So...you're now in India and have a beef with a UK based airline? Of what country are you a citizen and in what country is your permanent residence?

    Then you cannot legally sue (at least not in the U.S.) unless you get permission from the bankruptcy court. While you likely could get permission if your claim arose after the BK filing, it would likely cost you thousands of non-recoverable dollars to get permission.
     
  12. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    Sometimes you gotta take your fleecing like a gentle, little lamb.

    It may not happen often, but life is full of indignities, abuses, and slights.

    Take your lickin' and try to keep on tickin'.
     
  13. Tax Counsel

    Tax Counsel Well-Known Member

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    Good for going to the UK. But the OP's ultimate destination was India, and it was that leg of the trip that the boarding agent had a problem with.
     
  14. Gsteve

    Gsteve Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I am a US citizen that travelled to India to visit parents and not stay in the hotel. So it is a family visit, and not vacation if that helps. I do not have time for bringing up frivolous lawsuits but i am quite upset for not allowed to board when i had all paperwork as required by US Govt, Indian Govt and UK Govt. It is documented. VA has incorrect guideline which i have a picture of. It is simple as that. I wish I could slap 5k lawsuit, but I am only asking to recover extra expense i incurred because of their mistake.
     
  15. Gsteve

    Gsteve Law Topic Starter New Member

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    I will take that advice. I am a million miler with American despite not being very fond of them. I have seen it all. But this was something else.
     
  16. Gsteve

    Gsteve Law Topic Starter New Member

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    Hello Zigner... can you clarify your last comment... "...that ambiguity will work against it". Will it work against me or against the airline?

    Issue is how do you define "origin" or journey.
    US: CDC has very clear that it is first leg
    India: Documents 'start of journey'
    Agreed, 'start of journey' can be interpreted in US or London. But when I contacted Delhi Airport on public twitter post, they clearly responded "Start of journey = first leg".

    I had undertaken similar journey 1.5 months back using Lufthansa (via Frankfurt). They also considered 72 hours from 'origin' as US, not Frankfurt.
     
  17. Tax Counsel

    Tax Counsel Well-Known Member

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    The general rule is that when there is ambiguity in the terms of a written contract then that ambiguity is held against the person/entity that drafted it. Here, of course, that's the airline. It wrote the rules, so if there are two different ways that the ambiguous part can be read, the reading more favorable to you would likely be what the court would go with
     
  18. zddoodah

    zddoodah Well-Known Member

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    The what did you mean when you wrote, "As a result, we lost few hundreds (hotel, new COVID, taxi, etc.)"?

    Then why did you write, "As a result, . . . vacation got cut by 3 days."

    I don't know that your lawsuit would be frivolous, but your alleged damages appear to be quite minimal. And, since you'd need relief from the bankruptcy stay to sue, I don't see any legal action being a particularly worthwhile endeavor.
     
  19. army judge

    army judge Super Moderator

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    I am a million miler with Delta, United, and American.

    I try to avoid flying on any commercial airline these days, not just during Covid.

    Driving, as unpleasant as it can be, beats flying first class on any airline.

    We travel using our motor home, by passenger rail with a private room, automobile for trips under 300 miles, and have avoided flying for the past two years.

    We made one exception flying one way to Phoenix for a medical evaluation and workup at the Mayo Clinic. We hated the "experience" so much, that we rented a car and drove back. We took two leisurely days to travel from Phoenix back to the Hill Country of Texas.

    We own a home in Belize, but last week we put that home on the market to sell.

    Frankly, airplanes are dirty, passengers are surly, flight attendants, and customer disservice personnel; along with all the peculiarities of Covid have turned me off to airline travel. Heck, my wife and I are retired, we prefer to avoid airports and all that goes with that "special" place.

    Anyway, I wish you all the best. You need to decide what works best for you. These days I no longer complain when I feel misused, I simply take my business elsewhere. Once it dawned upon me that very few businesses care about service anyway.
     

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