Schiphol has decided to cancel thousands of flights in July and August due to the personnel shortage it faces. Therefore, the vacation plans of many Dutch people are likely to shatter, and various travel agencies will suffer damage. Many of these victims want to recover their damages from the airport. Kasper Jansen, Professor of European Liability Law at Erasmus School of Law, explains in the Financieele Dagblad that it is not certain whether these damage claims have any chance of success.
The Consumentenbond (Consumers Association) has revealed that it is investigating the possibility of filing a mass claim to Schiphol on behalf of the affected travellers. This way, the travellers might be compensated for individually suffered damages such as the inability to use an apartment, hotel or rental car that has already been paid for. Additionally, the ANVR, the industry association of travel agents and tour operators, has stated that it wants to file a claim to Schiphol for all the damages its clients have suffered because of the cancellations and missed bookings.
The liability of travel organisations and airlines is regulated by law, but the legal position of airports is less clear. One must prove that Schiphol commits an unlawful act by cancelling flights to recover the damages. Jansen explains that this can constitute a challenge for the further legal process; “To my knowledge, there are no specific regulations concerning this topic. Therefore, it will be the question of whether Schiphol has violated an unwritten due care standard.” This formulation leaves a lot of freedom for interpretation of a judge, making it unpredictable what will be decided in the case.
Even if Schiphol is bound by an unwritten due care standard, the airport could argue that it was forced to act this way because of an event of force majeure. According to Jansen, this defence could very likely be successful if Schiphol can prove it “has done everything that reasonably can be asked of the company to prevent cancelling flights. Just like every human being, one cannot expect Schiphol to do the impossible.”