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Israel Consumer Council launches class suit to force airlines to refund tickets

Suit accuses United Airlines, Ukraine Airlines, Aegean Airlines and Vueling Airlines of breaking Israeli law by not reimbursing passengers for flights canceled because of virus

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

United Airlines commercial jets sit at a gate at Terminal C of Newark Liberty International Airport, July 18, 2018, in Newark, N.J. (AP /Julio Cortez)
United Airlines commercial jets sit at a gate at Terminal C of Newark Liberty International Airport, July 18, 2018, in Newark, N.J. (AP /Julio Cortez)

The Israel Consumer Council on Monday filed a class action suit at the Tel Aviv District Court against four international airlines it claims are refusing to refund tickets that they canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.

The defendants are United Airlines, Ukraine Airlines, Aegean Airlines and the Spanish Vueling Airlines, all of which are only offering customers vouchers or tickets for new dates, the suit says.

Several other airlines, among them Air France, Spain’s Iberia, Portugal’s TAP and KLM of the Netherlands, changed their policy and agreed to issue cash refunds to tens of thousands of Israeli customers after being approached by the Israeli organization.

The class action suit charges that the four airlines’ failure either to refund the money or to inform customers that this was a possibility contradicts Israel law.

Ofer Marom, director general of the consumer council, said the airlines were behaving with impertinence. “The law dictates that following the cancellation of a flight by the airline company, the customer is entitled to a monetary refund or an alternative ticket, according to his or her choice, with the companies obliged to inform the travelers about the possibility of getting their money back.”

The case was filed by lawyers Baruch Adler of Adler Shachar Adler, and Roni Avissar-Sade of Shapira Bar-Or Matzkin and Co.

Still in the grip of the coronavirus, Israel is not expected to renew international flights until September.

On Saturday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu temporarily halted all flights into the country until legal steps could be taken to allow the Home Front Command to transfer all incoming passengers to state-run quarantine hotels for 14 days.

The move came after some 70 passengers on a United Airlines flight from the virus-stricken New York area arrived at Ben Gurion Airport on Saturday morning and were allowed to travel home in taxis without having their temperatures checked or filling in forms detailing where they would be quarantined for the requisite 14 days.

Passengers arriving in Israel on Monday were taken to the isolation hotels.

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