24 June, 2018

Pobeda sues smoking passengers for causing diversions and wins

Is the Russian budget airline Pobeda starting a precedent by suing unruly passengers whose bad behaviour forces an aircraft to divert?

The low-cost airline has recently won a number of court cases it took to reclaim the costs of diversions against the passengers that caused them by bad behaviour - in the most recent three cases the bad behaviour was smoking during the flight.

The airline told the courts the flights were diverted to "exclude the possibility of fire" after smoke alarms had been triggered.  Flights DP188, DP189 and DP855 operating between Moscow and the cities of Gyumri and Makhachkala in August-September last year were diverted either to Mineralnye Vody or Volgograd and Pobeda decided to go after the passengers financially to recoup some of the costs associated with each diversion.  

In all three recent cases, the courts sided with the airline granting them legal damages of Rb700,000 ($11,000) in total. General director Andrei Kalmykov says that would-be smokers should "think a hundred times" before smoking on Pobeda's flights. He warned that the airline was working closely with financial recovery specialists to collect all the claims in full.

Pobeda is not the first airline to take legal action against passengers, in 2015 British budget airline Jet2 said it was taking legal action against a passenger, Jamie Ferguson, in Ibiza following Ferguson's abusive behaviour on a flight from Glasgow.  At the time the airline said it had banned Mr Ferguson for life and would be "pursuing legal action against the troublemaker in the Spanish courts".

Are the Pobeda cases about to set a precedent for airlines taking legal action against passengers who cause disruption through excess alcohol consumption, aggression or just plain bad behaviour?

"I firmly believe all airlines should take legal action against passengers you cause disruption to flights through being drunk on a flight or acting aggressively and dangerously." Our chief aviation correspondent Jason Shaw says. "The cost of a diversion can soon mount up for an airline, especially if the crew are coming to the end of their allowed duty hours and so, therefore, it seems only fair to recoup those costs, in full or in part, from the direct cause of those unexpected extra costs. It would also act as a deterrent to some people if they know that airlines will come after them legally for the extra costs their drunkenness of aggression costs."