German Supreme Court: no air transport contract for passenger “Still Unknown”

The plaintiff booked two flight tickets through an internet booking form on the airline’s website. There was a note in the booking form saying “no name change permitted after booking. name has to comply with passenger’s ID card”. For the first ticket the plaintiff filled in his own name whereas for the second ticket he entered “still unknown” instead of first name and family name of the second passenger.The airline sent a booking confirmation and charged the prize of the two tickets to the plaintiff’s bank account. When the plaintiff later called the airline to notify the name of the second passenger, he was told that this was an inadmissible name change. The plaintiff was not willing to book a new ticket for his companion and decided to fly alone.He then sued the airline for refund of the prize of the second ticket as well as compensation for denied boarding regarding the second passenger pursuant to Reg. 261/2004. The first instance court dismissed the claim. The appelate court upheld this decision.Upon further appeal, the German Civil Supreme court (BGH) partly reversed the judgment and granted the claim for refund of the second ticket but upheld the dismissal of the claim for compensation. The BGH held that the plaintiff’s offer to buy a ticket for a second, still unknown person had not been accepted by the airline which had expressively required to fill in the passenger’s name in the booking form. Thus no contract had been concluded with regard to the “unkonwn” person and the airline had to refund the ticket prize. However, lacking a valid contract there was no claim for denied boarding compensation as such claim would require a confirmed booking.Source: BGH press release 174/2012 of 16 October 2012; full text availbale in German here>>.Case details: BGH judgment X ZR 37/12 of 16 October 2012

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