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Successful Legal Cases Against Turkish Airlines

Successful Legal Cases Against Turkish Airlines

Old Feb 25, 2016, 7:57 am
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Successful Legal Cases Against Turkish Airlines

It is notoriously difficult to persuade Turkish Airlines to pay compensation for flight delays, cancellations and baggage loss. In my experience at least, they always come up with an excuse like weather problems, industrial action, air traffic control delays, safety-related mechanical repairs and IST airport delays which, they claim, precludes them having to pay compensation under EU law. They then studiously avoid replying to any subsequent correspondence.

Given this contestatory TK approach to customer relations, it would be useful if FT members could share their experiences in making successful legal claims against the airline. Please post details of the nature of your claim, how TK initially responded, the way in which you took legal action, and what compensation you received.
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Old Feb 25, 2016, 8:16 am
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In May 2015, I flew in V class on the routing TXL-IST-BOM. The flight out of TXL was unfortunately delayed two hours due to 'late arrival of inbound aircraft' and I therefore missed the onward connection at IST to BOM. The TK lounge were admittedly quite efficient in arranging an alternative itinerary via Doha to BOM (on TK and Jet Airways). Nevertheless, I was still 6 hours delayed and my baggage was lost for a day.

TK claimed that no compensation was due because the delay was due to congestion at IST and mechanical problems. Subsequent e-mail correspondence then went unanswered. I then commissioned Flight Delay GmbH to take action on my behalf (there are several such companies but this one was chosen because it is Berlin based). Flight Delay received exactly the same BS as me and compensation was denied. They were thus forced to take legal action in the Berlin courts and the judge subsequently awarded €600 compensation plus costs.

It is only when such legal action becomes the norm rather than the exception that TK will start treating customer complaints with the seriousness that they deserve.
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Old Feb 25, 2016, 11:16 am
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This is not a particularly uncommon scenario for EC 261/2004 and has little to do with TK. The scenario here, where the delay giving rise to EC 261/2004 delay compensation is on the non-EU segment, e.g. IST-BOM, remains contentious and it there is no particular downside to the carrier in denying compensation until ordered to pay.

Some studies suggest that less than 2% of possible EC 261/2004 claims are actually made. Who knows what % are actually pursued to a judgment.

Had TK done a bank transfer to OP for EUR 600 a few days after the claim was made, that only encourages claims. Here, OP had to know enough to make a claim and to know that he could claim even though the ultimate delay ocurred for a non-EU segment. He also had to pursue a claim and presumably forego a goodly percentage of his EUR 600.

TK, on the other hand, is out the same EUR 600 it would have been out however many months earlier and none the worse for wear. At each stage, some number of people drop by the wayside and TK pockets that EUR 600.

If you were TK's CFO, which strategy would you pursue? How is it any different on other carriers?
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Old Feb 25, 2016, 7:32 pm
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Originally Posted by Often1
This is not a particularly uncommon scenario for EC 261/2004 and has little to do with TK. The scenario here, where the delay giving rise to EC 261/2004 delay compensation is on the non-EU segment, e.g. IST-BOM, remains contentious and it there is no particular downside to the carrier in denying compensation until ordered to pay.

Some studies suggest that less than 2% of possible EC 261/2004 claims are actually made. Who knows what % are actually pursued to a judgment.

Had TK done a bank transfer to OP for EUR 600 a few days after the claim was made, that only encourages claims. Here, OP had to know enough to make a claim and to know that he could claim even though the ultimate delay ocurred for a non-EU segment. He also had to pursue a claim and presumably forego a goodly percentage of his EUR 600.

TK, on the other hand, is out the same EUR 600 it would have been out however many months earlier and none the worse for wear. At each stage, some number of people drop by the wayside and TK pockets that EUR 600.

If you were TK's CFO, which strategy would you pursue? How is it any different on other carriers?
Not exactly true. In this case, TK had to pay additional legal costs.

My experience is that many airlines will now pay EU 261/2004 claims when it is clear that liability exists. Of course, they will pay only when asked. TK stands out for its blatant stonewalling of claims and aggressive denial of liability. So much so, that I previously had a claims company tell me that they would handle any claim apart from one with TK. Maintaining a wild west strategy to paying out claims is not good corporate strategy.
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Old Feb 29, 2016, 5:18 pm
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Originally Posted by johnirvine
It is notoriously difficult to persuade Turkish Airlines to pay compensation for flight delays, cancellations and baggage loss. In my experience at least, they always come up with an excuse like weather problems, industrial action, air traffic control delays, safety-related mechanical repairs and IST airport delays which, they claim, precludes them having to pay compensation under EU law. They then studiously avoid replying to any subsequent correspondence.
Can't say I have a ton of experience running into EC 261 situations given that I tend to ignore borderline cases but the one time that I did make a claim was recently with TK. It was summarized here: http://www.flyertalk.com/forum/26101165-post28.html

From what I heard, airlines have become very creative in denying these claims. I don't think TK is unique or stands out in particular in this regard. The onus has always been on the passenger to prove their claim, no one is going to hand you a cake on a gold plate just because you request one. Always assume you are going to have to fight for it but don't seek an unnecessary confrontation if you can settle it amicably.

Originally Posted by johnirvine
TK claimed that no compensation was due because the delay was due to congestion at IST and mechanical problems. Subsequent e-mail correspondence then went unanswered. I then commissioned Flight Delay GmbH to take action on my behalf (there are several such companies but this one was chosen because it is Berlin based). Flight Delay received exactly the same BS as me and compensation was denied. They were thus forced to take legal action in the Berlin courts and the judge subsequently awarded €600 compensation plus costs.

It is only when such legal action becomes the norm rather than the exception that TK will start treating customer complaints with the seriousness that they deserve.
Your example demonstrated very well how this kind of claim should be handled. Unfortunately, most people would rather spend time voicing their displeasure on an IBB rather than taking concrete actions to address their complaint. In the Mileage Run / Premium Fare Deal forum, you can see a ton of people who think submitting a complaint = write an e-mail to the DoT. Naturally, that won't go anywhere and airlines understood that and hence, they knew they could do whatever they want since very few people would actually do something about it.

That said, if I may add something, I think it would always be ideal to contact your airline's local sales office. In the case of TK, if they have a sales office in your city or country, contact them first. Why? The generic customer service handled out of IST is dismal, partly because the people handling them there have likely become insensitive to these complaints due to the volume they receive. However, the local sales office located in your country may understand your local norms and laws better than their headoffice in TK. They may be more aware of the legal risks than the robots in IST. If you are suing TK, chances are you are putting their local office in your country or city on notice since it's unlikely the court judgement can be enforced against TK in Turkey.

Originally Posted by Often1
This is not a particularly uncommon scenario for EC 261/2004 and has little to do with TK. The scenario here, where the delay giving rise to EC 261/2004 delay compensation is on the non-EU segment, e.g. IST-BOM, remains contentious and it there is no particular downside to the carrier in denying compensation until ordered to pay.
That is not correct. Turkey, unlike Switzerland and Norway, does not in fact recognize EC 261/2004 as a matter of law. EC 261 has no force of law in Turkey. However, Turkish Airlines voluntarily agreed to incorporate elements of the old EC 261 as part of their published customer service commitment plan. This is a major distinction that anyone who is thinking about suing TK needs to understand, if you don't, then you are better off just move on. Under EC 261, you don't need to go to the court to have your claim adjudicated, only your respective national transport agency or their equivalent. This can problematic when the claimant doesn't reside in the EU and the airline in question is not an EU airline. So for some people, their only option would be to go to court, whereas EU residents can generally go to either, many choose to go to their national transport agency instead of the court. Note that TK has never updated their service plan to reflect the changes to EC 261 that went into effect on January 1st, 2015 so TK is still operating under the old and more generous EC 261 than that it currently is in effect in Europe. So this is another major distinction to understand. If you have the choice to take on TK, you obviously want to sue them under the more generous pre-2014 EC 261 terms, not the more restrictive rules, so to do that, you will have to go to court, not your national transportation agency/board.

The tricky part with TK is it's unclear if any EU National Transportation agencies will accept claims against TK since Turkey is not bound by EC 261 unless the flight is originating from an EU country. In the cases of IST to any non-EU destinations, the lawsuit will likely be centered on misleading or false advertisement or false guarantees. Remember, TK is not being sued for violating EC 261 since it only applies on EU departing flights but it's being sued for failing to honor a published claim / guarantee which the consumer relied on to do business with TK. If you haven't done so yet, make sure you download TK's customer service plan pamphlet on this regard and save it somewhere. But to advance this claim, it will depend on where you reside, how/where you purchased your ticket and etc. For example, someone who flew BKK-IST-CAI, bought his ticket with a U.S. online travel agency but he is actually a Brit residing in Japan, where can he sue TK? Tough question, I don't know. My situation was pretty straightforward, I bought my ticket and reside in the same non-EU jurisdiction and my local laws permit me to sue a company in my local court, as opposed to having to take it to Turkey, so for me, had TK resist in anyway my claim against them, I would have the upper hand in suing TK in a country for which I know the laws better than they do. I don't think my local sales office who immediately agreed to pay me within a few hours of me sending them a polite e-mail (no threats whatsoever, not even legal action) was doing it for charity, they knew the local laws and didn't want to fight a futile battle.

Originally Posted by Often1
Some studies suggest that less than 2% of possible EC 261/2004 claims are actually made. Who knows what % are actually pursued to a judgment.
Very few I imagine. As shocking as it may seem, the awareness re: EC 261 is low. Airlines are supposed to post the notices re: EC 261 at their check-in counters and inform passengers their rights but few actually do. EU is very bad at enforcing its own laws and sadly, I don't mean just the EC 261.

Originally Posted by Often1
Had TK done a bank transfer to OP for EUR 600 a few days after the claim was made, that only encourages claims. Here, OP had to know enough to make a claim and to know that he could claim even though the ultimate delay ocurred for a non-EU segment. He also had to pursue a claim and presumably forego a goodly percentage of his EUR 600.
I don't agree with this. Of course, every claim is different and unique, it all depends on the proofs and evidence that the passenger can provide. TK is not bound by EC 261 unless the flight departs from an EU country, including Norway and Switzerland. By pursuing a claim against TK, regardless where you reside, I would go for the misleading advertisement / guarantee failure angle because you can then pursue TK under the less restrictive pre-2015 EC 261 equivalent and you can sue them for misleading advertising or even conducting business with bad faith vs. consumers. If TK claims the reason for the delay is weather yet at the moment of your flight, it was sunny in Istanbul and you can prove that, it's possible TK's liability will be more than just what they owe you under EC 261. Plus, if you won, there is a very good chance the court will also award you the cost. And in some jurisdictions, there are also awards for moral or punitive damages or both. The latter two are very hard in a plain vanilla EC 261 equivalent claim but not so much if the merchant, i.e. TK is accused of misleading or false advertising and acted in bad faith or lied. Most EU jurisdictions do not recognize moral or punitive damage in their civil law hence such remedy is unavailable but if you happen to live in a jurisdiction which permits such claims, I don't think automatically denying all claims and forcing a showdown is a wise strategy that TK should employ.

Originally Posted by Often1
TK, on the other hand, is out the same EUR 600 it would have been out however many months earlier and none the worse for wear. At each stage, some number of people drop by the wayside and TK pockets that EUR 600.
I think that's the belief and the approach that most airlines adopt, not just re: EC 261 but we saw that with unilateral cancellation of mistake fares or fares claimed to be errors. I know of a case, which is now settled out of court, with regard to a recent BA fare fiasco where the parties being sued agreed to pay well into the 5 figures to settle it. The case never made it to trial despite initial effort to resist it. Both sides are bound by a confidentiality agreement so there is not much I can divulge here. The settlement was more than 10 times the value of the original fare. Was it wise for BA to just randomly deny and cancel all tickets? You can certainly argue, like you stated, that very few people actually take any concrete actions to defend their rights, other than praying for the appearance of a white knight on FT or some miraculous DoT intervention. But in any given 100 claims, such approach will undoubtedly step on a few landmines here and there. And when the "landmines" do explode, they can hurt -- a lot. Not to mention, the brand name damage that an adverse judgement can cause. TK needs to be mindful that as an airline of a 2nd world country, it took them a lot of effort and money to build up a solid reputation that they have today. Ruining it over a few bucks is really not the way to go.

Originally Posted by Often1
If you were TK's CFO, which strategy would you pursue? How is it any different on other carriers?
A responsible and methodical approach is what I would recommend. Instead of counting pennies, look at the big picture. As the CFO, you obviously want to reject frivolous and baseless claims. However, there is a reason why TK voluntarily incorporates EC 261 into their customer service plan. Nobody forced them to adopt it unlike the EU airlines who are forced into it. If complying with EC 261 doesn't make business sense, they can withdraw from it anytime but be ready to suffer the PR consequences. Would I fly TK via IST if I know TK doesn't provide delay compensation or assistance? Given that IST is notorious for all kinds of delays, I would probably avoid TK. So the job of the CFO, it seems is to make sure, employees are professionally trained to handle such claims as opposed to a blanket rejection of all claims via canned e-mails. That can open up other risks to the organization, including but not limited to reputation, legal and marketing.

Originally Posted by johnirvine

My experience is that many airlines will now pay EU 261/2004 claims when it is clear that liability exists. Of course, they will pay only when asked. TK stands out for its blatant stonewalling of claims and aggressive denial of liability. So much so, that I previously had a claims company tell me that they would handle any claim apart from one with TK. Maintaining a wild west strategy to paying out claims is not good corporate strategy.
I find it odd why a claims company would not handle TK, it's not like the Ryanair and Easyjet are easy to claim against either. Some of them probably isn't aware that while Turkey is not bound by EC261 and most airlines in Turkey cannot be claimed against unless they depart from an EU airport, Turkish Airlines is a notable exception.
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Last edited by Guava; Feb 29, 2016 at 6:16 pm Reason: typos
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Old Mar 1, 2016, 12:36 am
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Thank you Guava for a fantastically informative and helpful post.
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Old Mar 8, 2016, 9:19 am
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I'm glad to share a successful claim of compensation from TK recently. My trip on 2 Jan 2016 was from OTP-IST-DOH and the first leg was delayed by more than 3 hours, causing me to miss my connecting flight and I was practically going in circles before getting to the lounge and spent the next 5 hours sorting out the mess (which include rebooking DOH-SIN flights)

There was a QR flight that departs to DOH 2 hours after I have landed at IST and I practically have to stand my ground and ask for them to rebook on this flight as the next direct flight to DOH will be some 18 hours later. The lounge staff called an internal line for help but it seems their ticketing department was unwilling to rebook me on anything else except on their own TK metal citing mine was a award ticket even when I told them I was willing to sit in Y when i was ticketed in J. They refused to rebook me to SIN as well as I was supposed to catch a flight from DOH to SIN because the flight distance was greater than my booked ticket. I was also denied the usage of a phone though their CS manual states otherwise and was told to connect on lounge Wifi to make calls. Eventually I was put up in a hotel for half a day and rebooked on the next TK flight out which was 18 hours later, hence reaching DOH with a massive delay and managed to take another flight back to SIN.

My bags did not make it back with me too, only resurfacing nearly 3 days later. I lodged a complaint when I got back and cited EU261 and made my claim for EUR400 and reimbursement for IDD calls incurred with proof of bill provided and their first 3 replies was to reject my claim outright citing safety threat with incoming flight to OTP. When I pressed them for proof of the safety threat, they then changed their reason to that on 1st/2nd Jan, most flights were delayed or canceled due to intensive snow, which is considered unsafe to operate the flight.

Nearly giving up at this stage, I reviewed the correspondences and I realise they keep using the incoming flight as a reason to reject my claim. Hence I framed my final reply to them that my beef with them was that they did not live up to their CS standards by not rebooking me on the next available flight on QR despite me begging them for it at the lounge and the flight actually took off with minimal delay, hence they cannot claim weather or safety issues as a means to reject my claim. If they had rebooked me before I had arrived in IST (since I had >3 hours delay) or while I was in the lounge with 2 hours before QR flight departs, I would not be arguing with them now.

I didn't hear from them for like 2 weeks and had proceeded to file a claim with a claims specialist site which actually rejected my claim citing snowfall too. I was then surprised to receive TK's reply a day later apologising for misinformation and incomplete result for my feedback and offered me my full EU261 compensation and little extra compensation for my IDD calls charges in the form of a EMD and was told to contact a local sales office which I did and is now waiting for the money via bank transfer. Persistence is key probably? And also framing your argument well instead of giving them an open-ended case might work better.
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Old Dec 17, 2016, 11:23 am
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Turkish ask me to pay 1546 Euro extra for my ticket

After I bought the ticket I spent some money for my vacation
one month later Turkish cancelled my flight. I had no choice and accepted one day delay
after some time Turkish re-schedule my flight. I asked them to put be back on that flight. surprise. for two tickets they ask us to pay 1546 euro euro (1616 USD at the moment of writing) because, in their opinion, this is a new reservation
can I take them to court?
thank you!
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Old Dec 17, 2016, 12:24 pm
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Originally Posted by ghasmail
After I bought the ticket I spent some money for my vacation
one month later Turkish cancelled my flight. I had no choice and accepted one day delay
after some time Turkish re-schedule my flight. I asked them to put be back on that flight. surprise. for two tickets they ask us to pay 1546 euro euro (1616 USD at the moment of writing) because, in their opinion, this is a new reservation
can I take them to court?
thank you!
I'm not sure I understand. They cancelled your flight and put you on a new flight that you accepted but now want to change?

Did you accept the flight change and have them re issue your ticket? In which case they have fulfilled their requirements to you. As far as I understand.
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Old Dec 17, 2016, 2:50 pm
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Originally Posted by ghasmail
After I bought the ticket I spent some money for my vacation
one month later Turkish cancelled my flight. I had no choice and accepted one day delay
after some time Turkish re-schedule my flight. I asked them to put be back on that flight. surprise. for two tickets they ask us to pay 1546 euro euro (1616 USD at the moment of writing) because, in their opinion, this is a new reservation
can I take them to court?
thank you!
I'm not sure I understand. They cancelled your flight and put you on a new flight that you accepted but now want to change?

Did you accept the flight change and have them re issue your ticket? In which case they have fulfilled their requirements to you. As far as I understand.
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Old Dec 17, 2016, 4:33 pm
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Asking to be put back on the re-instated flight will be treated as a voluntary change in your situation i.e. you have to pay. Once the new itinerary is accepted (despite being inconvenient) any subsequent rebooking requests are voluntary changes. Unless there is a schedule change to your new itinerary I dont see how you can get back on the original flight without paying change fee and upfare.
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Old Dec 18, 2016, 4:06 am
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Originally Posted by ghasmail
After I bought the ticket I spent some money for my vacation
one month later Turkish cancelled my flight. I had no choice and accepted one day delay
after some time Turkish re-schedule my flight. I asked them to put be back on that flight. surprise. for two tickets they ask us to pay 1546 euro euro (1616 USD at the moment of writing) because, in their opinion, this is a new reservation
can I take them to court?
thank you!
It's a difficult one. A switched-on customer relations department would see the irony of the situation: after you have shown a measure of good-will in accepting the cancellation/change, they might show you good-will in equal measure and shift you back to the original fights.

But Turkish can be difficult to deal with. I'd suggest you connect with their social media team, keeping the communication short and to the point. If you get nowhere, accept the situation as it is. A court case would be uncertain, tortuous and expensive.
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Old Dec 21, 2016, 12:28 pm
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Originally Posted by SK AAR
Asking to be put back on the re-instated flight will be treated as a voluntary change in your situation i.e. you have to pay. Once the new itinerary is accepted (despite being inconvenient) any subsequent rebooking requests are voluntary changes. Unless there is a schedule change to your new itinerary I dont see how you can get back on the original flight without paying change fee and upfare.
This varies tremendously by airline. Delta/KLM was willing to accommodate me changing my mind twice about an alternate itinerary after a schedule change, and even threw in complimentary seat assignments (and no, I don't have status). Turkish, Air Canada and some others have very strict policies where once a schedule change is "accepted", they don't permit any more free changes -- even back to the original booking.

My advice? Make your decisions about who you fly with based on the customer service you receive.
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Old Dec 22, 2016, 6:37 pm
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I had my EU-IST flight cancelled and was put on the next EU-IST flight few hours later. Reached my final destination on time (BKK). Sent complaint to my local station manager. Got free EU-IST-TURKEY ticket vouchers valid one year. I was quite happy with this. Probably something to do with the fact that i used to fly TK quite a lot.
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Old Dec 23, 2016, 1:27 am
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Originally Posted by joorinainen
I had my EU-IST flight cancelled and was put on the next EU-IST flight few hours later. Reached my final destination on time (BKK). Sent complaint to my local station manager. Got free EU-IST-TURKEY ticket vouchers valid one year. I was quite happy with this. Probably something to do with the fact that i used to fly TK quite a lot.
Why did you send in a complaint if you reached your destination on time?
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