Swedish agency rules on first Icelandic ash cloud claims

Two airlines and one travel agency should pay full compensation to travelers whose flights were cancelled because of the Icelandic ash cloud last spring, a Swedish agency has ruled.

Swedish agency rules on first Icelandic ash cloud claims

In its first decision on consumer complaints stemming from the ash cloud from an Icelandic volcano, the Swedish National Board for Consumer Complaints (Allmänna reklamationsnämnden – ARN) has recommended that three passengers who have requested compensation be paid immediately.

ARN chose to accept three of the first four cases related to the ash cloud, picking what were considered to be typical cases in an effort to establish a template for how the roughly 250 remaining ash cloud compensation claims should be assessed.

According to the board’s recommendations, 70-year-old Yvonne Lindeberg from Stockholm is entitled to 2,000 kronor ($294) in compensation from Dutch airline KLM.

“It feels great. We thought we had a right to this money and we’d also heard that other people who flew with other airlines had gotten compensation,” she told the TT news agency.

She and her husband Bo traveled to Nice, France in April. On the way home, they were stranded in Amsterdam because their flight to Stockholm was cancelled.

They were rebooked on a flight which departed on April 22nd and spent two nights at a hotel in Amsterdam.

KLM paid for the first hotel night, but Lindeberg claimed the airline should also cover the costs for the entire hotel stay, as well as the couple’s meals, taxi rides, and telephone calls – in accordance with current EU rules and international conventions.

The Board for Consumer Complaints rejected KLM’s challenge “in its entirety” on the same grounds claimed by Lindeberg, and with the justification that the airline could have arranged other means of transportation for the couple.

Following the initial rulings, the Board will now move forward with the remaining compensation claims.

“We’ve now ruled on four cases that are representative, that is to say, are reminiscent of many other cases,” Sten Larsson, head of the travel section at ARN, to TT.

“We’ve established certain principles, which legislation should be applied, and which paragraphs in the charter travel law are applicable. Now we can rule on the rest of the cases using the initial cases as a guide.”

ARN did however reject a claim from a Gothenburg-area man who wanted 7,035 kronor in compensation to cover the costs of a hotel and travel during a bus trip home from Istanbul in April.

The organisers of the trip pointed out that the travelers had already been compensated for unused airline tickets as well as for food and lodging for four days. Furthermore, the arrangers pointed out, it was the Gothenburg man’s own idea to find an alternative route home – something the trip arrangers didn’t recommend.

During a meeting with the travelers, a written agreement was drawn up concerning a bus trip back to Sweden at the travelers’ own expense, the arrangers claimed.

The Board found that an agreement had been reached stipulating that the travelers would by for the bus trip, food, and lodging themselves and that nothing happened such that the agreement “would not be binding for the parties”, wrote ARN.

The National Board for Consumer Complaints is a public agency that functions something like a court and is tasked with impartially trying disputes between consumers and businesses.

The Board issues non-binding recommendations on how disputes should be resolved, although most companies follow its rulings, according to the Board’s website.

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