Airlines Liability In Times Of Natural Calamities
The recent Sandy Storm that has turned the life upside down on the north-easternSeaboard of America for a couple of days, causing losses worth billions of dollars and, even more importantly, of some deaths. Everyone knows that the losses in one form or the other were incurred and, that there could not have been much that could have been done to avert these besides taking the best measures that could have been taken. But, every time the losses are incurred, it is time to fix the rights and liabilities of the parties to these losses and devise the ways and means to bring the things back to normal. One of the major effects of this super-storm has been on the civil aviation as close to 8000 flights were cancelled and grounded. There was no exception. From the biggest to the fastest of airplanes offering the luxury or the cheap flights to the customers, there was no exception. So, it is time to take stock of the airlines liability in these times when the acts of nature cause the losses, rather than the human created losses.
As per the contracts of the airlines, which are devised by the airlines and which experts believe, are mostly inclined towards the benefit of the airline, it is natural to view the role of airlines in these times of natural calamities. But, it is also a fact that the airlines cannot do much but to refund the money back to the customers or get this paid back to them in some way or the other. Beyond this, even the airlines cannot be held to be responsible. The critics would always like to hold these responsible for more things but that is not likely to serve the purpose or stand ground in the court of law. For reasons which are totally beyond their control and are determined by the natural factors, the airlines cannot be held responsible for anything more than the refunds of the sums that they owe to the customers.
At the same time, it is also to be highlighted that the airlines, offering the premium or the cheap air tickets, cannot duck their responsibility by hiding behind this clause of Act of God in the agreements and include all those factors, which are well under their control, in the clause. For this reason, if the airline refuses to take the liability and does not grant adequate compensation to the passengers, which could be over and above the refunds claim, that is not likely to stand public probity.
It has to be understood by the consumer forums and the airlines that just as the clause of natural influences causing losses is right in shielding the airlines from the excessive liabilities, the airlines too shall understand that this clause includes only those natural factors which are totally or substantially beyond its control.
by: Shawn Parker