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June 30, 2010

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Airline sued over canceled flight tickets

TWO customers sued Shanghai Eastern Airlines, a ticket agency and for a refund of tickets valued at 7,340 yuan (US$1,080) at a court hearing yesterday.

They said the airline's clause that said it would only return 20 percent of the face value if the tickets were returned was unfair.

Pudong New Area People's Court heard the case yesterday without deciding a verdict.

The airline had applied for a closed hearing for reasons of commercial confidentiality but the court turned down the request.

On May 9, Hong Liang, a local lawyer, and a friend, Li Zhefeng, booked two return tickets from Shanghai to Lhasa.

They used ticket agency Shanghai Huacheng Southwest Travel Agency, which is related to and is the third defendant in the case.

Because of an accident, the two called the same day they had booked the tickets to cancel the flights.

But they were told that 80 percent of the value would be deducted since the tickets were discounted ones on a special flight.

Hong told the court that the 80 percent cancellation charge was unreasonable. According to a regulation issued by the National Development and Reform Commission, the maximum cancellation charge in the transport industry should be 20 percent of the ticket value.

Hong said the airline had "neglected interests of consumers by shifting the risks and responsibilities to consumers after selling the tickets."

He said the airline wouldn't incur a loss because they returned the tickets in time.

The defendants said the salesman had made clear the cancellation charge details on the phone and the charge was printed on the electronic tickets.

Since the two had signed to accept the tickets, this meant they accepted the clause.

Hong argued that the clause hadn't been indicated strongly enough and it was unreasonable to expect them, as ordinary customers, to pay too much attention to the small print.


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