Germany: appelate court dimisses frequent flyer’s claim against Lufthansa

The plaintiff took part in Lufthansa’s frequent flyer programme “Miles & More” and had collected about 900.000 bonus miles until Lufthansa changed the terms regarding redemption of bonus miles. According to the new terms, the number of bonus miles required to receive a business class or first class upgrade had gone up 15 to 20 percent. The plaintiff regarded these changes unfair and void and therefore filed a law suit at the regional court in Colonia (LG Köln). The court granted the claim and declared the new rules void as far as bonus miles were concerned which had been collected before the amendment.However, upon Lufthansa’s appeal, the appelate court (OLG Köln) reversed the judgement and held that the amendments were lawful because they were covered by a provision in the General Conditions of Contract according to which the rewards for bonus miles were subject to amendments unless the participants were put at a disadvantage in bad faith.The court held that there was no bad faith on part of Lufthansa. According to the court’s findings, an average participant would only collect a maximum of 12.000 bonus miles. Taking into regard an inflation rate of 12,62 percent since the last amendment in 2004 and the fact that the amendment had been communicated one month before coming into force, it could not be regarded unfair. An average participant of the programme would have had a fair chance to redeem the bonus miles before the changes became effective.Anyway, the appelate court allowed further appeal to the Supreme Court.Case: OLG Köln 15 U 45/12, judgement of Jan. 8, 2013Source: OLG Köln press release of Jan. 8, 2013

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