Passenger Books Private Jet When Flight Is Oversold, His Lawyer Sends Airline The Bill

In theory the European Union has the strongest consumer air travel protections. Its EU261 requires cash compensation for many flight delays.

In practice enforcement is tough to make happen. European airlines were far worse than U.S. ones providing refunds for cancelled flights during Covid, and carriers often ignore or erroneously deny claims. Customers have been known to send bailiffs to airline offices to enforce claims, and one airline even cancelled a flight to avoid paying $276.

Nonetheless one lawyer who has practically made a career out of enforcing airline rules in court has filed a lawsuit against an airline to get them to pay the cost of a private jet for his client after an overbooking caused the passenger to be denied boarding.

  • Passenger’s flight was overbooked
  • Asked to be rebooked on the next flight (with a different airline), this was refused
  • After all possible commercial options were exhausted to reach destination same day, they chartered a plane
  • They’re now suing for slightly over $25,000

The passengers were scheduled to fly Düsseldorf to Palma de Mallorca. The flight was ovebooked, but no one sought volunteers. They were ultiamtely offered one seat and not two. The lawyer contends the airline breached their contractual and regulatory obligations and failed to take steps to mitigate the harm that caused. Via Google translate, the attorney suggests the Düsseldorf court has already contemplated a private aircraft in this situation (‘the court has already mentioned the term “Learjet”’) and says “Challenge accepted, here I am, the lawsuit was filed today.”

I haven’t seen anyone claim the cost of a private jet against an airline under EU261 before. This lawyer has taken on some novel consumer rights cases in Europe. (They’re a frequent flyer aficionado themselves, posting under kexbox on German message board They’ve even beaten back Lufthansa’s attempt to collect a fare different from a passenger who threw away segments via hidden city ticketing and beat back Air France’s claim that travel agents are responsible for paying passenger compensation not the airline.

This will be interesting to watch. If the passenger wins, and the precedent spreads, it would certainly raise the cost of overbookings in Europe – if only because airlines would have to make sure passengers involuntarily denied boarding are made whole.

(HT: L.B.)

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Fantastic. Without the threat of having to pay for the damages they cause, airlines will have little incentive to honor their contractual obligations. Civil litigation works fine to keep contracting parties to their bargains, and no reason on earth to exclude airlines from the court system just because they have outsized political power.

  2. Were they booked in Basic Economy wthout seat assignment? Can the airline deny boarding even with an assigned seat?

  3. This could be done in the US too. The DOT denied boarding compensation rules provide a minimum amount that the airline must pay to passenger who are bumped involuntarily – the passenger can reject that minimum payment and sue for higher actual damages, per the DOT website:

    “You are always free to decline the check (e.g., not cash it) and take the airline to court to try to obtain more compensation. DOT’s denied boarding regulation spells out the airlines’ minimum obligation to people they bump involuntarily”

  4. Good Luck, seriously. No more overbooking. Airlines should charge the cost associated with operating flights Even if it means a more expensive ticket price. Selling $19 tickets are absurd and the company knows it! But no worries, if the company is losing money they can get concessions from the pilots.

  5. I love EU261 and dearly wish that the USA would institute the same laws in the same fashion but forcing airlines to repay private jet costs is serious overkill.

  6. No way should the court allow this. I do not think there is a direct flight to PMI thus there would have to be a stop . So the the most he could get would be a flight to the connection city, like Frankfort or Munich. For that matter he could have taken the train to either of them and then taken a flight from there. So BS on this .

    It was his choice to take the Deluxe and thus his cost

  7. I don’t understand why European airlines don’t follow the new, smarter approach of US carriers, upping the compensation offer until there’s enough takers.

    Anyway, Mallorca is a leisure destination; I can’t see what would have been so pressing for this guy to get there like that. Appears like self-made “damage” to create a case.

  8. @tomri
    Of course there are direct flights to PMI!
    In fact, quite many, since its a tourist destination.
    The overbooked flight was a nonstop flight.
    Have you read the article? The pax even contacted his travel agency to see if there were any other flights from other airports that he could reach, there were none.

    It was not a choice to take the pj, the airline did not ask for volunteers as requested by EU261, waiting too long to tell him a final denied boarding and rebook him on the other carrier and instead waiting so long that the other carrier was also not reachable anymore, thus, the pj.

  9. @Marco
    Please read the full article.
    So leisure destinations don’t have businesses? How do you know the pax didn’t fly to sign a big contract, for example for a purchase of a hotel?
    Las Vegas is also a leisure entertainment destination, so nobody in Vegas signs any deals worth big figures $ at all?

    Your logic doesnt make sense.

  10. @SomeDutchGuy
    EU261 and German civil law doesnt differentiate between tickets with an assigned or not assigned seat. In other words, the airline has to transport you no matter which fare class or ticket you bought (as long as its a public accessible fare (revenue ticket, award ticket,…) –> buddy passes etc. are not subject to EU261

  11. ” …airlines would have to make sure passengers involuntarily denied boarding are made whole.”

    A customer pays for something. The airline doesn’t provide it. And the customer wants to be made “whole”. What a crazy idea !

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