Canceled flights: what are the obligations of travel agencies, according to Emmanuelle Llop
The mayhem continues in the sky. L’Echo takes stock of the rights and duties of agencies, with the good advice of lawyer Emmanuelle Llop.
Transavia cancels 25% to 30% of flights until Sunday due to a strike. Heathrow asks companies to stop selling plane tickets. Lufthansa is canceling 7% of its flights this summer due to lack of staff. In the middle of the summer vacation period, flying becomes an obstacle course.
The air galley continues with a SAS return Bergen-Zurich flight canceled on July 13, a travel agency recently told the CDMV group. Hence its very legitimate questions, which many professionals ask themselves. “The company is supposed to find us a flight and a hotel? Who pays for the additional nights if she leaves us in the lurch? The client (22 people) or us? “The bill can be salty… This agency had already repaid the Oslo-Harstad flight following a flight cancellation as well as two nights in Oslo instead of the North Cape.
To answer her questions, we interviewed Emmanuelle Llop, lawyer at Equinoxe Avocats, following the webinar of L’Echo touristique on the subject in which she had participated. Here are his recommendations, useful to know as a travel pro, and also to share with his client in order to clear up any misunderstandings.
As part of a dry flight
In terms of law, it is necessary to clearly distinguish between the sale of an airline ticket alone and that of a package tour.
“Even if the agencies feel the urge to help their customers to whom they have sold a flight only, it should never be forgotten that they are not required to go beyond their mission of selling the initial ticket, explains Emmanuelle Llop. They act within the framework of a double mandate: of the customer who asks to be sold and issued a ticket and of the company which entrusted the agency with the mission of issuing his tickets. If the agency has correctly carried out its mission, that is to say its mandate, it has not committed any fault and accepts no responsibility if the transport contract itself – which exists between the passenger and the carrier – suffers vicissitudes: cancellations, delays, denied boarding, modifications…
In the case suffered by the customer of this agency, only the company (we are in the European Union) must assist and take care of the passenger: choice between reimbursement or replacement flight under comparable conditions and as soon as possible, catering / refreshments, accommodation during the waiting time and transfers (EU Regulation 261/2004), compensation of 250, 400 or 600 euros depending on the flight distance in the absence of extraordinary circumstances exempting the company from liability. The agency can guide its client to assert his rights but cannot assume responsibility.”
As part of a package
For the sale of a package such as a week in a hotel-club from Paris, the rights and duties of distributors are largely different. The principle of full liability then applies, now shared between the tour operator and the distributing agency. And this, under the Tourism Code, which provides for the transposition of European Directive 2015/2302 on package travel and related travel services. This does not at all exonerate the carrier from his duties.
“The company must always offer the solutions specified by Regulation 261/2004, recalls Emmanuelle Llop. Depending on the modification caused by the cancellation and modification of the flight, it may be a minor modification of the package (a few hours difference) which does not entail any obligation for the agency other than to inform the customer clearly (in writing: email, SMS, customer account messaging).”
“In the event of a major modification before departure, the customer should be offered the choice between accepting the modification or refusing it with cancellation of the contract free of charge, especially if there is a price difference because even if the company must offer a new flight at no additional cost, additional costs are always possible. If the replacement flight incurs additional costs, several scenarios are therefore possible: payment by the agency and/or the TO and/or the company and/or the customer. If you have to pay these costs because of the company, it is possible to claim payment from it, under certain conditions.
If the return flight is concerned, carrier as agency and TO have the same obligation to accommodate travelers until the return flight, with a limit of 3 nights for agencies and TO (under equivalent conditions) while companies have the same obligation without time limit (be careful, no time limit either for vulnerable people). Without forgetting that the agencies and TOs have the option of exercising their recourse against the carrier who has not fulfilled his obligations to take charge. In summary, it is better to try here to assist the traveler and find a return solution for him, due to full liability, even if it means taking action against the defaulting carrier.“