Brooklyn, NY asked in International Law and Consumer Law for New York

Q: Does an airline have the right to charge a changing fee when the passenger is unable to fly due to medical Emergency?

I recently was overseas in central america, where I was bitten by a stray dog. Due to the incident I had to stay two extra days (under doctor observation & rabies shots). When I arrived to the airport they made me pay a fee for changing my flight date and they also refused to look at the medical documents I had. I'm in the process of writing a complaint through the airlines website but I'd like to know if they refuse to compensate me, would this be a viable lawsuit

1 Lawyer Answer
Richard Sternberg
Richard Sternberg
  • International Law Lawyer
  • Potomac, MD

A: It is very unlikely to be a viable lawsuit. First, under recent air carriage contracts, most discounted coach tickets are non-refundable for any reason including disabilty or death. The airline' view is that you can buy travel insuranc or a full fare ticket to protect against that. If the airline resold the seat, which it almost surely did, there is a terrific argument that they mitigated their damages, and might have mad more if it was a last-minute , full-price sale, and cannot be unjustly enriched by your change fee. But, air travel is a heavily regulated area, and you would need to reasearch the regulatory effect. At bottom line, a lawsuit is impractical, because the cost of researching and filing would vastly exceed the cost of the change fare.

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