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.”