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Consumer Group: “No-Show” Clauses Break the Law

Consumer Group: “No-Show” Clauses Break the Law
Jeff Edwards

U.K. consumer protections organization, Which? has accused European carriers of intentionally breaking the law by enforcing so-called “no-show” policies – permitting the airlines to cancel return booking if passengers should miss outgoing flights for any reason. According to the advocacy group, British Airways, Virgin Atlantic, KLM and others regularly enforce the rule.

The fine print of many of the terms of carriage which accompany airline tickets stipulate that should a passenger fail to use a portion of the scheduled itinerary, then the remaining legs of the journey may be cancelled by the carrier. In practice, these so-called “no-show” clauses allow airlines to cancel return flights should a passenger fail to board their outbound flight.

Now, however, well-known U.K. consumer association Which? says, in addition to being unfair, the policies are a clear violation of both E.U. and British law. The group says it will not recommend any carriers who enforce these rules in its highly regarded annual “Best and Worst Airlines Guide.” According to Which? British Airways, Emirates and Virgin Atlantic, KLM, Air France, Swiss, Qatar and Singapore Airlines all include a “no-show” policy in their terms of carriage.

“The clauses mean passengers who miss an outbound flight can be considered a ‘no show,’” the consumer group warns. “All their connecting or return flights are then cancelled, typically with no refund given, and their seats can be resold – potentially allowing the airlines to double their money. Passengers often only find out their tickets have been cancelled when they arrive at the airport and are forced to buy another seat at a vastly inflated price, or pay a hefty fine – up to €3,000 in some cases – to use their original ticket.”

The airlines say the no-show policies are in place to prevent passengers from abusing “skip-lag” or “hidden city” fares by booking itineraries with connecting flights and simply not boarding the connecting flight (in order to take advantage of a less expensive fare to the final destination). In North America, where passenger protections are not as robust as in Europe, most airlines and even Amtrak enforce some sort of no-show policy.

“Missing a flight because you’re stuck in traffic or on a delayed train is frustrating enough, but for the airline to then turn around and say your return journey is cancelled as well is completely unfair and unjustified,” Which? Managing Director Alex Neil said of the common airline practice. “We don’t think there’s any good reason for a ‘no-show clause’ to exist – it only works in favor of the airline. It should be removed immediately by airlines, who need to show more respect for their passengers.”

[Photo: Shutterstock]

View Comments (9)


  1. dogcanyon

    December 10, 2018 at 6:56 pm

    Not sure what the picture of the Southwest Airlines plane has to do with this U.K. based news story …

  2. JackE

    December 10, 2018 at 7:21 pm

    Why would — or should — it break the law if both parties agree with the terms?

  3. jonsail

    December 11, 2018 at 10:27 am

    Hidden city fares can’t be the whole justification. If a person has an outbound flight, US to Europe separated by two weeks from an inbound flight Europe to US, missing the first flight is not part of a strategy to get a lower fare unless the airline charges less from a RT than a one way in which case the traveler seeking to game the system would miss the second, not the first flight.

  4. sdsearch

    December 11, 2018 at 3:41 pm

    There’s a big difference between missing a flight and not informing your airline, versus missing a flight and contacting your airline and explaining the reason for it (and, if you want to still do your return flight, explaining how you’re getting there).

    Also, there’s big difference between occasionally missing a flight, and intentionally missing it on every booking, or boarding at your connection city without having flown to that connection city (when your connection city”happens to be” your home town perhaps:?)

  5. htb

    December 11, 2018 at 10:18 pm

    @JackE: “Why would — or should — it break the law if both parties agree with the terms?”

    This is in Europe.
    First, there’s no negotiation of the terms, so “both parties agree” is stretching it a bit. Second, consumer protection in Europe forbid one-sided terms to the the sole disadvantage of the weaker party. It would be a race to the bottom. Third, if it’s against the law, it doesn’t become legal just you put a clause into the small print.

  6. Counsellor

    December 12, 2018 at 5:23 am

    Response to JackE:

    The reason is that this is not a bargained transaction; the airlines add the provision in their voluminous “Conditions of Carriage” which is not an actual part of the ticket, but rather is incorporated by reference and about which the airline allows no bargaining. It’s called a “Contract of Adhesion” and abuse of such contracts is one of the reasons for consumer protection laws that limit what a company can force on the consumer.

  7. Mtothe M

    December 12, 2018 at 5:30 am

    Skip lag and hidden city fares are known to approximately 2% of air travelers. These clauses are nothing more than money grabs by an industry that self-rewards itself for mediocre service.

  8. 84fiero

    December 12, 2018 at 5:35 am

    Tip: You may want to fix the comments from your editor before posting next time (see the multiple instances of “Which?” comment, with regard to the name of the consumer group).

    Also, wouldn’t hurt to make the stock photo relevant and not use a WN plane for an article about UK aviation! 😉

  9. 84fiero

    December 12, 2018 at 6:11 am

    Correction – apparently this is the name of a magazine in the UK…so it should have been italicized! And commas correctly used. Both of which would avoid confusing the reader, particularly non-UK readers – which constitute the majority of FT’ers! 🙂

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