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KQ forced to refund Sh400,000 to passenger for overbooking

EA-KQ

A Kenya Airways plane. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • CAK said it carried out investigations after a Mr Christopher filed a complaint about being bumped off a flight on February 23, 2018.
  • KQ admitted that overbooking is a common practice, citing instances where some passengers fail to show up for flights.
  • Kenya is yet to pass laws outlining the compensation guidelines for passengers denied boarding involuntarily.

Kenya Airways (KQ) was forced to refund a passenger more than Sh400,000, for a botched trip after the airline overbooked a flight from Kigali, Rwanda to Nairobi.

The Competition Authority of Kenya (CAK), in a statement, said it found the national carrier culpable of unconscionable conduct and misleading representations and ordered it to refund the money incurred on a ticket.

CAK said it carried out investigations after a Mr Christopher filed a complaint about an incident that occurred on February 23, 2018.

On that day, the passenger had booked a flight from Kigali to Nairobi, which was scheduled to depart at 7.40pm. However, on arrival at the Kigali International Airport, he found that the flight he had booked was already full and was denied boarding.

“The Authority’s action is the culmination of an investigation into a complaint by Mr Christopher on 23rd July 2018 alleging that KQ on 23rd February, 2018 oversold tickets from Kigali to Nairobi and as a result he was not allowed to board the airline’s 7:40pm flight from Kigali to Nairobi, despite him arriving at the airport on time and checking in online,” said CAK.

Kenya Airways then booked him on a RwandAir flight to Nairobi, which due to its arrival time caused him to miss his British Airways connection flight to London.

 “A KQ staff in Kigali indicated that the airline would provide an alternative flight to enable him to complete the trip to London. Upon arriving in Nairobi, he was advised to pay for the KQ flight to London and subsequently apply for a refund. He paid £3,211.20 (Sh415,262.88) and completed his journey,” CAK said, but added that “his attempts to seek a refund from KQ have been unsuccessful.”

During the investigations, CAK said the airline denied any responsibility in the matter when it appeared before it, claiming that the passenger was denied boarding due to late arrival at the airport.

But KQ admitted that overbooking is a common practice, citing instances where some passengers fail to show up for flights.

Overbooking is an international aviation practice which allows airlines to sell more tickets than available seats in anticipation that some of the booked passengers may fail to show up in time for the flight.

When all the travellers turn up however, airlines, depending on their policies, may request for volunteers to relinquish their space in exchange for a compensation offer or are transferred to other plane sections or flights.

Kenya is yet to pass laws outlining the compensation guidelines for passengers denied boarding involuntarily. Under the draft Civil Aviation (Consumer Protection) Regulations, 2017, travellers denied boarding would be entitled to a compensation equivalent of 20 per cent and 30 per cent on domestic and international travel ticket price respectively.

“However, regulations dictate that a consumer should be informed prior to being bumped that the flight has been oversold and the potential consequences of the same, including being offered a ticket for a later flight or compensation,” CAK stated, indicating it also considered the passenger’s itinerary receipts and boarding passes.

The authority noted that KQ had forced the passenger to comply with conditions that were not reasonably necessary, made him purchase a new ticket to London on a false promise that he would be refunded the money and lied to CAK on why the passenger had been denied boarding.

“In view of the above, the Authority ordered KQ to refund the complainant Sh415,263 being the amount equivalent to the value of the unutilised ticket, commit to be informing consumers of the reason for being involuntary denied boarding and be duty bound to remit appropriate compensation to affected consumers if bumping is inevitable,” CAK stated.