KLM Atlanta to Amsterdam Schiphol airport
Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

Should Airports Be Held Liable For Compensation?

Required to take off from their bottom line to customers?

The summer of 2022 may be considered one of the worst summers in the history of travel in general for a plethora of reasons — including substantially higher overall costs, lower levels of service, and delays and cancellations which were often exacerbated by long lines queuing for hours…

Should Airports Be Held Liable For Compensation?

…but what if the cause of the delay or cancellation of a flight was due to an airport instead of an airline or a hotel or resort property?

When an airline is the cause of a delay or cancellation, compensation is usually due to the customer. When a hotel or resort property is the cause of a delay or cancellation, compensation is usually due to the customer…

…so should compensation be due to customers — whether they are passengers or airlines — when an airport is the cause of a delay or cancellation?

London Heathrow Airport Versus Emirates Airline

This official open letter from London Heathrow Airport pertaining to an explanation of the implementation of limiting capacity “to secure better, more reliable summer journeys” — meaning that as a result, fewer airplanes could arrive to and depart from the airport — was issued on Tuesday, July 12, 2022.

“It is therefore highly regrettable that LHR last evening gave us 36 hours to comply with capacity cuts, of a figure that appears to be plucked from thin air. Their communications not only dictated the specific flights on which we should throw out paying passengers, but also threatened legal action for non-compliance”, according to this official public statement which was issued from Emirates Airline on Thursday, July 14, 2022 that contained a rather terse response. “This is entirely unreasonable and unacceptable, and we reject these demands.”

Continued in that official statement was “Now, with blatant disregard for consumers, they wish to force Emirates to deny seats to tens of thousands of travellers who have paid for, and booked months ahead, their long-awaited package holidays or trips to see their loved ones. And this, during the super peak period with the upcoming UK holidays, and at a time when many people are desperate to travel after 2 years of pandemic restrictions.”

That controversial standoff did not last long, as this joint statement from London Heathrow Airport and Emirates Airline was released on Friday, July 15, 2022:

The President of Emirates Airline and the CEO of Heathrow Airport held a constructive meeting this morning. Emirates agreed the airline was ready and willing to work with the airport to remediate the situation over the next 2 weeks, to keep demand and capacity in balance and provide passengers with a smooth and reliable journey through Heathrow this summer.

Emirates has capped further sales on its flights out of Heathrow until mid-August to assist Heathrow in its resource ramp up, and is working to adjust capacity.

In the meantime, Emirates flights from Heathrow operate as scheduled and ticketed passengers may travel as booked.

Emirates Airline also added a third daily flight at London Gatwick Airport to offer its customers an additional option to minimize the inconvenience which the capacity limitations at London Heathrow Airport were to cause passengers.

Some customers of Emirates Airline might have misplaced the blame on the airline instead of on the airport for any delays or cancellations of their flights. Why should Emirates Airline be responsible for compensating customers due to a situation which was not even the fault — or within control — of the airline?

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol Versus MAX Vakantieman

Despite arriving at the airport as much as four hours in advance, hundreds of passengers missed their flights due to the ongoing problems at Amsterdam Airport Schiphol — which is the home airport of KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and the largest commercial international airport in the Netherlands — which led to a television program threatening the airport to compensate those people who were inconvenienced and had incurred costs as a result.

The airport grudgingly agreed to compensate those passengers, which could cost the airport millions of euros.

The television program in question was MAX Vakantieman — the content is in Dutch — who was successful in convincing the airport.

Toilet Issues at London Gatwick Airport

Due to a water main which burst and caused the water pressure to drop to low levels on Thursday, July 14, 2022 — on the same day which Emirates Airline publicly responded to London Heathrow Airport in an aforementioned statement — passengers were instructed to not use the toilets at London Gatwick Airport, which was forced to close temporarily.

Additionally, some restaurants were forced to close due to concerns with hygiene.

Bottles of water were distributed by employees of the airport for thirsty passengers.

Shortages of employees and staff members have caused significant inconveniences for passengers in the weeks prior to this incident.

Final Boarding Call

This article highlights three recent examples of passengers who experienced delayed flights, canceled flights, or were otherwise inconvenienced — with airports as the source of their problems.

Amsterdam Airport Schiphol was reportedly forced to compensate passengers to avoid a lawsuit by a television program in the Netherlands…

…but should airports in general be responsible for compensating its customers when they are the source of delays or cancellations of flights — or significant inconveniences to customers — whether those customers are passengers, airlines, or vendors who rent space at the airports?

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.

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