In a recent judgement handed down by the Beit Shean Small Claims Court, the Court declined a claim for compensation as a result of flight cancellation under the Aviation Services Law (Compensation and Assistance due to cancellation of flight or change in its condition) – 2012, due to a technical malfunction[1].

The Facts:

Plaintiff booked a flight on route Tel Aviv – Amsterdam – Tel Aviv. The flight from Tel Aviv took-off on time, however due to a technical malfunction, it was necessary to return the aircraft to Tel Aviv and eventually Plaintiff flew to Amsterdam with a delay of 9.5 hours.

Arkia’s Arguments:

Arkia argued that prior to take-off the aircraft was inspected and found to be in order.

Soon after take-off, the wing shelves stuck in the middle hence it was not possible to continue with the flight under these conditions. Arkia argued that there had been no problem with this system in the previous flight.

Arkia further argued that since the aircraft was loaded with fuel, it was necessary to fly over the Mediterranean Sea for 3 hours in order to burn the fuel prior to landing.

The passengers were updated all the way. Arkia handed out sandwiches and drinks to all passengers.

After landing, it transpired that the malfunction was severe and the aircraft was grounded. An alternative aircraft was brought from Rhodes. The alternative flight was supposed to take-off at 12:15 but was eventually delayed to 14:30 due to operational reasons as a result of fire events around the airport, also an issue which was out of Arkia’s control.

Arkia argued that the above circumstances fall within the exemption under Clause 6 (c) (1) to the Aviation Services Law according to which the operator is exempt from paying the fixed compensation in case the cancellation of the flight was due to special circumstances which were not under the control of the operator.

The Judgement:

The Court concluded that Arkia was able to prove that the technical malfunction was due to a default in the aircraft’s shelves by presenting the records relating to the malfunction.

Arkia also brought a representative to the hearing who was able to provide the details concerning the default. The representative explained that the shelves unit is comprised of 7 pieces and that three months prior to the flight all units were replaced.

The court accepted the argument that since the product was new, it was probably a manufacturing default which could not have been expected by Arkia and obliged the returning of the aircraft to Tel Aviv.

The Court stated that safety considerations are above every other consideration and that it can be assumed that Plaintiff will agree that once there is even a small possibility to a danger to his safety due to a malfunction in the aircraft, it is necessary first to repair the malfunction even if it causes a flight delay.

The Judge also concluded that Arkia’s conduct had been appropriate and practical, including by providing the passengers with information about the nature of the malfunction, providing coupons for food and beverage, etc.

The claim was declined.

[1] S.C. 52259-09-18 Avraham v. Arkia Israeli Airlines.