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Arkia, Israir airlines sued for allegedly violating Israeli consumer protection laws

Lawsuit seeks compensation of some NIS 20 million from airlines for withholding departure fee refunds they owe to passengers whose terminals were swapped at the last minute

Tobias (Toby) Siegal is a breaking news editor and contributor to The Times of Israel.

Travelers at Ben Gurion International Airport, on June 14, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)
Travelers at Ben Gurion International Airport, on June 14, 2022. (Avshalom Sassoni/Flash90)

A class-action lawsuit has been filed against Israeli airlines Israir and Arkia for allegedly violating Israeli consumer protection laws by withholding refunds it was supposed to return to passengers.

According to the lawsuit, filed by attorneys Nitzan Gadot and Rotem Sagi, passengers assigned to Terminal 1 at Ben Gurion Airport are required to pay a lower departure fee than those assigned to Terminal 3, since there are more services and amenities offered at the latter.

The fee, paid by any passenger leaving the country via Ben Gurion Airport, is $30.36 at Terminal 1 and $13.99 at Terminal 1. The fee is paid directly to the airlines, which then pass it on to the Airports Authority.

According to the lawsuit, issues arise when passengers are asked to depart from a different terminal than the one they were originally assigned, and are not given the $16.37 difference. Airlines sometimes switch a passenger’s departing terminal due to flights being canceled or in an effort to manage passenger congestion.

The plaintiffs in the case — two families whose departing flights were moved from Terminal 3 to Terminal 1 at the last minute — say they were not refunded the difference in fees. Even after approaching the airline and asking for the difference, they were refused, the lawsuit said.

The lawsuit notes that according to Israeli regulations and consumer protection laws, airlines are required to return commission differences to passengers who are subject to such changes.

An Arkia Airlines plane at Ben Gurion Airport. (Moshe Shai/Flash90)

The suit further claims that airlines have a direct responsibility to their passengers and are not allowed to avoid the issue by directing passengers to their travel agencies.

The lawsuit is seeking compensation of NIS 10.87 million from Arkia and NIS 9.87 million from Israir.

Arkia and Israir, respectively, are considered Israel’s largest airlines after the national carrier El Al.

Earlier this month, six international airlines, including El Al, were fined by the US Department of Transportation for violating consumer-protection rules by delaying refunds to passengers whose flights were canceled or significantly delayed since the beginning of the COVID pandemic.

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