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Aviation

Refusal of boarding justified: The passenger’s visa was invalid

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Legal news
calendar 21 January 2021
globus Denmark, Sweden, Norway

Refusal of boarding usually results in an unconditional duty for the air carrier to pay compensation to the passenger in question. However, in a recent case, the Copenhagen District Court, assessed that the passenger did not have a right to compensation, as there had been issues with her visa.

As the main rule, passengers have a right to compensation if they are denied boarding against their will. However, the rule can be deviated from when there is just reason for the refusal of boarding, such as health and security reasons or incomplete travel identification. Furthermore, it is the passenger’s own responsibility to have a confirmed reservation for the flight in question and to be on time for check-in. Therefore, when a passenger is denied boarding, it is important to assess whether there was sufficient reason for the refusal of boarding and if the passenger had fulfilled their obligations.

Error in the visa application

The case concerned a passenger who was due to travel from Copenhagen to Toronto via Brussels. The trip from Copenhagen to Brussels went smoothly, but problems arose at the security check in Brussels, as security personnel assessed that the passenger did not have valid travel identification. The personnel believed that the passenger had incorrectly completed her eTA-visa application. eTA is a required travel authorization for travelers visiting Canada as tourists, on business trips or just passing through. The air carrier then decided to deny boarding for the passenger, as you may only travel to Canada with a valid visa.

The passenger and the air carrier hereafter disagreed as to whether the passenger actually was in possession of a valid visa at the security check in Brussels. The case was therefore brought before the Copenhagen District Court. The passenger claimed that she had completed the eTA-application correctly and was in possession of a valid travel authorization. However, the air carrier believed that the application was filled out incorrectly, and the passenger was denied boarding and asked to fill out a new application. So, the parties disagreed as to whether the original visa had been sufficient for travel to Canada. The parties did, however, agree that the passenger was rebooked to an alternative flight to Toronto after the visa was approved the same day.

Delay not covered by regulation 261

Based on the information provided during the proceedings, the Copenhagen District Court found proof of the fact that the passenger had to apply for a visa on the day of departure, as she did not have valid travel identification for travels to Canada. This was the cause of the delay. The Court concluded that this was a justified refusal of boarding due to incomplete travel identification. Consequently, the air carrier did not have to pay compensation to the passenger, and the passenger had to cover the costs of the case.

IUNO´s opinion

Most cases of compensation in accordance with regulation 261 are solely decided based on the written material in the proceedings. In this case, it was vital that the passenger’s version of the case did not correlate with the provided documents – and that this was clearly communicated to the judge that made the verdict.

The air carriers cannot expect the court to automatically check all the court documents. It is important that the air carrier itself points out all the factors that are important for the case and makes sure to keep track of all the evidence. IUNO recommends that the air carrier ensures a copy of faulty documents. Otherwise, it can be difficult to lift the burden of proof.

[Copenhagen District Court in case BS-29499/2018-KBH of 21 September 2020]

As the main rule, passengers have a right to compensation if they are denied boarding against their will. However, the rule can be deviated from when there is just reason for the refusal of boarding, such as health and security reasons or incomplete travel identification. Furthermore, it is the passenger’s own responsibility to have a confirmed reservation for the flight in question and to be on time for check-in. Therefore, when a passenger is denied boarding, it is important to assess whether there was sufficient reason for the refusal of boarding and if the passenger had fulfilled their obligations.

Error in the visa application

The case concerned a passenger who was due to travel from Copenhagen to Toronto via Brussels. The trip from Copenhagen to Brussels went smoothly, but problems arose at the security check in Brussels, as security personnel assessed that the passenger did not have valid travel identification. The personnel believed that the passenger had incorrectly completed her eTA-visa application. eTA is a required travel authorization for travelers visiting Canada as tourists, on business trips or just passing through. The air carrier then decided to deny boarding for the passenger, as you may only travel to Canada with a valid visa.

The passenger and the air carrier hereafter disagreed as to whether the passenger actually was in possession of a valid visa at the security check in Brussels. The case was therefore brought before the Copenhagen District Court. The passenger claimed that she had completed the eTA-application correctly and was in possession of a valid travel authorization. However, the air carrier believed that the application was filled out incorrectly, and the passenger was denied boarding and asked to fill out a new application. So, the parties disagreed as to whether the original visa had been sufficient for travel to Canada. The parties did, however, agree that the passenger was rebooked to an alternative flight to Toronto after the visa was approved the same day.

Delay not covered by regulation 261

Based on the information provided during the proceedings, the Copenhagen District Court found proof of the fact that the passenger had to apply for a visa on the day of departure, as she did not have valid travel identification for travels to Canada. This was the cause of the delay. The Court concluded that this was a justified refusal of boarding due to incomplete travel identification. Consequently, the air carrier did not have to pay compensation to the passenger, and the passenger had to cover the costs of the case.

IUNO´s opinion

Most cases of compensation in accordance with regulation 261 are solely decided based on the written material in the proceedings. In this case, it was vital that the passenger’s version of the case did not correlate with the provided documents – and that this was clearly communicated to the judge that made the verdict.

The air carriers cannot expect the court to automatically check all the court documents. It is important that the air carrier itself points out all the factors that are important for the case and makes sure to keep track of all the evidence. IUNO recommends that the air carrier ensures a copy of faulty documents. Otherwise, it can be difficult to lift the burden of proof.

[Copenhagen District Court in case BS-29499/2018-KBH of 21 September 2020]

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