Competition Authority of Kenya has ordered national carrier Kenya Airways to refund a passenger Ksh. 415,263 being the cost he incurred after being denied to board their aircraft despite him arriving at the airport and checking in on time. The amount is equivalent to the value of the unutilized ticket;*
The Passenger, Mr Christopher is said to have been denied access to board the airline’s 7:40 pm flight from Kigali to Nairobi on 23rd February 2018.
According to investigations by the authority, the airline had oversold tickets to the said destination hence denying Christopher entry. Instead, they booked a Rwandair from Kigali to Nairobi but its timings resulted in Christopher missing the British Airways (BA) flight that was connecting him from Nairobi to London.
A KQ staff in Kigali indicated that the airline would provide an alternative flight to enable him to complete the trip to London.
“Upon arriving in Nairobi, he was advised to pay for the KQ flight to London and subsequently apply for a refund. He paid £3,211.20 (Ksh. 415,262.88) and completed his journey. However, his attempts to seek a refund from KQ have been unsuccessful,” said a statement from CAK to the press.
The statement records that upon investigations, it was found that KQ had violated section 55 (b) (v) and 56(1) (2) (a) (b) (e) and (d) of the Competition Act No 12 of 2010 (“the Act”) which prohibits false or misleading representations and unconscionable conduct by a supplier of a product or service.
Among the remedies available under the Act, for contravention of the above sections, include a financial penalty of up to 10% of the immediately preceding year’s gross annual turnover of Kenya airways ticket sales according to Section 36 of the Act. Besides, Criminal remedial measures under Section 70 of the Act where the matter may be forwarded to the ODPP and If found culpable, a party may be fined up to Ksh.10 million- or 5-years’ jail term for its personnel or both.
KQ PLAYS VICTIM
The airline vide written representations and oral submissions to the Authority denied any responsibility in the matter. They indicated that the complainant was denied boarding due to late arrival at the airport.
They also confirmed that overbooking/bumping is a common practice in the aviation industry given that some passengers confirm reservations but fail to show up for the flight. Airlines, therefore, run the risk of operating overcapacity.
However, regulations dictate that a consumer should be informed before being bumped that the flight has been oversold and the potential consequences of the same, including being offered a ticket for a later flight or compensation.
The Authority, as part of its investigations, contacted passengers who had accompanied the complainant, requesting them to give their witness account of what transpired. They corroborated the complainant’s version of events.
The Authority also considered other evidentiary information, including the complainant’s itinerary receipts and boarding passes.
Further, the Authority consulted the Kenya Civil Aviation Authority (KCAA) of whom they have an operational Memorandum of Understanding which, among other objectives, seeks to facilitate information sharing during investigations.
The aviation regulator indicated that in instances where passengers are bumped from a flight, they should be informed of their rights and options, including being offered a ticket for a later flight or compensation.
Based on the findings, the Authority determined that KQ’s conduct was in violation of Sections 55 (b) (v), 56 (1) (2) (a) (b) (d) (e) and 90 (d) of by using its higher bargaining position to deny the complainant boarding yet he had checked online and arrived on time, which is unconscionable.
Also, it was revealed that the complainant was forced to comply with conditions that were not reasonably necessary and used unfair tactics and undue pressure on the complainant, occasioning them to purchase another ticket on the promise that he will be refunded.
KQ also made false and misleading representations concerning the existence of a right or remedy, and knowingly provided false information to the Authority regarding the reasons as to why the complainant was denied boarding.
OWN YOUR MISTAKES
Besides the refund order which at the time of this publication KQ had complied with, the airline was also ordered to Commit to be informing consumers of the reason for being involuntarily denied boarding and be duty-bound to remit appropriate compensation to affected consumers if bumping is inevitable.
Lastly, the authority has ordered them to be refunding consumers who have been denied boarding an amount equal to the cost the consumer incurred in procuring the ticket, within sixty (“60”) days from the date a claim is lodged.