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In the last three weeks, I’ve been on the road a lot, out of a total of eleven changes of location I’ve done a whole nine by plane. This is a good reason for me to take a closer look at the current price war and its influence on traveling above the clouds. Within the framework of a small mini-series, I will deal above all with the phenomenon of “cheap flying” in German and European travel as well as its future. One thing is already certain: It’s not sustainable!
Part III: Demand me! Will you?

Beside the described “Flygskam”, which mainly refers to passengers and their behaviour on the flight, it is also possible to change the perspective. Here is a little more of something that companies should be worried about, or ashamed of.

Passengers vs. Airlines

When you go on a journey, there is a lot to sue about. Around 60 lawsuits per day are filed at the district court alone in Frankfurt because airlines do not pay compensation for delays or cancellations. In the past two years, the number of lawsuits filed by passengers against airlines has tripled. At some courts in Germany, the file covers have already become scarce. The German Judges’ Association describes the situation as very serious and demands help from the government.

It is currently a feat of strength for the courts to cope with the proceedings. One of the consequences is that enormous procedural backlogs arise, which means that orders in other cases can no longer be issued promptly. At the district court in Frankfurt, 60 percent of all civil lawsuits are currently about air passenger rights. There were 5,217 of these cases in 2017, and the increase since then has been rapid. In 2018 there were already 8,720 such lawsuits, for 2019 the lawyers expect about 16,000 passenger lawsuits. This corresponds to a tripling of the figure within two years.

The rights of passengers

If flights are cancelled or delayed by hours, the EU Regulation 261 provides for compensation of up to 600 euros. The Regulation states, moreover, that compensation cannot be claimed if the delay or cancellation of the flight is due to exceptional circumstances. Obviously, the potential for dispute lies in the interpretation of these circumstances.
Passenger portals on the Internet, such as www.fairplane.org, offer those affected to sue for the money on their behalf. In return, they are then entitled to a percentage share. Last year, fairplane alone filed 25,000 lawsuits. These lawsuits mainly concern low-cost airlines, which may apparently use the lawsuit as a filter. This would mean that all claims filed there would not even be processed. Only when a claim is brought to court will the claim be examined. Most lawsuits are then “paid away” immediately.
The low-cost airlines defend themselves against this common accusation and claim to adhere to the EU regulation. Legal actions are actually not even necessary.
At the district court in Frankfurt the matter is seen quite differently. Many airlines simply did not pay for flight delays or cancellations without complaint.
If one considers that a large number of the claims that are asserted are not paid out of court, but are undisputedly settled as soon as an action is filed, one could conclude that it is indeed the case that the passengers concerned do not assert their claims in court. It is therefore quite possible to get the impression that this has in the meantime become a common business model.
Judges demand that airlines that do not pay justified claims be severely punished so that the courts do not suffocate in passenger actions. I endorse this demand for government support, because the price war must not be fought on the back of our courts!
And I cannot say whether better payment behaviour would have led to more bankruptcy or not, but it would push some airlines even closer to the abyss than they already are.

Finally…

With these series readings, I wanted to illuminate the various parameters which influence the current situation in the low-cost flight segment. The existing oversupply of tickets, the growing competition of alternative means of transport or external factors, such as the ecological awareness of customers, form an environment for low-cost airlines in which it is very difficult to survive. The last article shows that some of these airlines apparently have little scruples and do not shy away from any means to survive, or at least not be next on the “death list”.
Of course the frequent flyers, like me, are happy about the low ticket prices, but we have to be aware that the current situation has no sustainability at all and the market has to and will consolidate sooner or later. We can be curious to see how the industry will develop in the low price segment.