Thursday, 6 July 2017

Pricing of flights - CJEU in Air Berlin (C-290/16)

CJEU issued a judgment today in the area of air travel, following on its previous decisions in cases ebookers.com (see our post here) and Vueling Airlines (see our post here). The judgment Air Berlin (C-290/16) first clarifies that airlines are obliged to indicate to air passengers prices of taxes, airport charges and other fees and surcharges separately from the price of the air fare. Air Berlin was shown to have had indicated as the price component of the final price a tax amount that had been much lower than the taxes the airline had to pay in reality. This could be misleading for consumers, as the remaining amount of the tax would be added to the final price, and could be seen as part of the air fare. The CJEU perceives Article 23(1) and (3) of the Regulation 1008/2008 on common rules for the operation of air services in the Community as requiring such a separate indication of air fares from taxes etc., in order to guarantee price transparency.

Furthermore, the CJEU in this judgment confirms that the Unfair Contract Terms Directive is also applicable to the area of air travel. The German consumer organisation argued that the flat-rate handling fee of 25 Euro that was charged by the airline also in cases when the passenger did not take the flight or cancelled their booking was clearly detrimental and could be considered unfair. The airline objected to this assessment by invoking the pricing freedom of air services in the EU. While the principle of pricing freedom indeed applies in this area, that does not mean, pursuant to the CJEU, that terms of contracts of carriage by air could be excluded from the unfairness control.

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