Multi-million dollar jet risks getting impounded when airline fails to pay debt to delayed passenger

One of Thomas Cook Airline's jets was nearly impounded due to the passenger's court order. Photo / Flickr, Aero Pixels
One of Thomas Cook Airline's jets was nearly impounded due to the passenger's court order. Photo / Flickr, Aero Pixels

A passenger whose flight was delayed has exacted the ultimate revenge against an airline by securing a court order to impound one of its multi-million dollar jets.

The unidentified woman from Germany had been locked in a four-year battle with Thomas Cook Airlines over a compensation payout of $US680 ($998) over a flight from Austria to the Caribbean that took off 22 hours late due to mechanical issues.

The woman was entitled to compensation under European Union regulations, which allows qualified passengers on late or cancelled flights to claim reimbursement depending on the distance and time of delay.

But Thomas Cook Airlines never came through with the payment, and the woman took the matter to an Austrian court.

A court order was issued over the payment, and an official told Salzburg Airport last week he was empowered to ground a Thomas Cook Airlines jet, worth tens of millions of dollars, until the airline came through with the money, NBC News reports.

Thomas Cook's sister airline, Condor, paid the money straight away and the aircraft avoided getting impounded.

"We first heard of the claim on Friday, when we were notified by the airport in Salzburg," Condor spokesman Johannes Winter told NBC News.

"Once we heard of it, we immediately paid. We are very sorry that it took this long."
Jonas Swarzenski, the legal chief of compensation company FlightRight, which represented the woman, said he believed it was an innocent blunder by the airline.

"Some airlines use the tactic of blocking requests or taking so long that people give up," he told NBC News.

"I think this was just an administrative mistake by the airline, the claim probably just got lost on somebody's desk."

Mr Swarzenski said only 15 per cent of travellers who were entitled to EU compensation ever actually made a claim.

According to the regulations, qualified passengers can claim financial compensation when they are denied from boarding, their flight is cancelled or their aircraft arrives more than three hours late, both within the EU and between EU and non-EU airports.

- news.com.au

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