Hainan Airlines ordered to compensate passenger over canceled flight
One year ago, Li Weimin, a Beijing lawyer, booked a flight from Beijing Capital International Airport to Shenzhen that was supposed to depart at 2:40 pm.
HNA announced the flight would be delayed, citing "air control" issues, after the passengers had boarded the plane. After being trapped on the plane for six hours the passengers disembarked. They waited another 90 minutes in the terminal before being told the flight was finally canceled because the airport in Shenzhen was then closed.
By that time Li, who said he felt outraged at the delay, had booked another flight with China Southern Airlines which took off at 11 pm.
Li filed his lawsuit against HNA in Chaoyang district court, according to Beijing Times.
His lawsuit, which sought 5,900 yuan in compensation, cited the terms of the Consumer Protection Law. The law states that companies failing to provide enough information to customers should double the refund price and pay additional compensation.
However, HNA defended itself by claiming that the delay and cancellation were caused by inclement weather. Since there was a thunderstorm at the destination, the flight had to be delayed and then canceled. Why Li’s China Southern flight was not affected was unclear.
"We refunded the ticket price, arranged accommodation and meals, so we had no other duties," a lawyer representing the airline told the court.
The court, in its judgment, said HNA failed to tell customers the reason for the flight delay and cancellation, so it should compensate the extra money – 840 yuan – that Li paid for his new ticket.
"It’s very common to meet a delay or cancellation when taking a flight," said Yang Huipeng, a lawyer with a Beijing-based law firm. "But few customers file a suit for extra compensation."
According to Yang, most airlines shun delay compensation by stating in the ticket purchasing agreement that if the delay or cancellation was due to force majeure – unexpected or uncontrollable events such as weather or a natural disaster – they will not pay extra compensation.
"My suggestion is that you buy delay insurance in case you meet with these incidents," Yang said.
Yang conceded that such suits are difficult to win.
"The difficult part of a lawsuit pertaining to flight delay is you cannot predict the compensation," Li said. "If you arrived a little bit late, maybe the compensation is just the taxi fee, but if you missed potential business, it would be hard to evaluate the loss."
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