Passengers waiting to board their flight at the Stuttgart Airport/Photo: AfricanCourierMedia

German court rules on refusal of airline to carry passengers under alcohol influence

If a passenger under the influence of alcohol conducts themselves in a way that endangers air safety, an airline can refuse to carry the passenger and order their expulsion from the flight, a District Court (Amtsgericht) in Frankfurt has ruled.

A man had booked flights for himself and his wife from Bogota, Columbia, to Stuttgart, Germany, on the airline, whose identity was not revealed in the court report.

The wife of the man at the time of boarding the flight in Bogota showed signs of drunkenness and also exhibited aggressive behaviour when approached by the airline staff. She was also said to have physically attacked the chief flight attendant and tried to grab the captain by the lapel.

In the context of the powers conferred on him by the Aviation Security Act, the captain decided that the facts of an “unruly passenger” were well established. The captain therefore decided to expel the drunken woman and her husband from the flight.

The airline justified the expulsion with the explanation that the presence of the couple on the plane would endanger the safety of the flight.

The husband of the woman however disagreed with the decision and sued the airline for compensation under the Passenger Rights Regulation and for damages for unjustifiably denying them boarding. The court dismissed the claims.

In the opinion of the court, the conduct of the couple was capable of jeopardising aviation security on the transatlantic flight.

The presence of the woman could also have caused health problems for other passengers even during the flight, the court reasoned.

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Moreover, in the opinion of the court the fact that the woman had ignored the instructions of the chief flight attendant to leave the aircraft, there was therefore a risk that she would not comply with further safety orders if she had been allowed on the flight.

In view of all these facts, the airline was justified to have denied boarding the couple and their expulsion did not justify the claims they had made, the court ruled.

The court made the decision on 28 May 2020 (case file: 32 C 784/19 (89)) but it was first reported in the September newsletter of the Federal Association of German Consumers (Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband or vzbv).

Sola Jolaoso

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