This is beyond significant…

Remember this moment. In the history of airline passenger rights, one of the most significant rulings regarding flights was passed down today. On November 20th, 2018, Spain’s Supreme Court ruled on a variety or passenger related issues, and for the first time in history passengers may have won. In short: an airline can’t cancel your ticket if you miss a flight, and you should be able to use any or all parts of a ticket as you wish, after all – you bought it all. For now, results are confined to national airline Iberia, but the implications from this supreme court ruling could play a sweeping role in unfriendly customer policies around the globe, going forward…

The Big Deal

An intriguing case against Iberia started at the very lowest levels of the judiciary and somehow made its way to the heights of Spain’s Supreme Court. The question: are some of Iberia’s travel booking clauses predatory to consumers? The short answer: maybe. The court has now ruled in favor of passengers on a variety of issues, some not so exciting, like whether Iberia can borrow planes; and some extremely exciting like whether an airline can cancel your ticket when you no show, prohibiting you from enjoying future parts of the ticket.

No Show Cancellation

Presently, airline rules are quite simple for better and worse. If you miss a flight for any reason, all the remaining flights in your itinerary automatically cancel. This prevents travelers from booking attractive flight deals from nearby cities and missing the first segment and simply hopping on at a later time. Essentially, if you are due to fly from Barcelona to Madrid, and then onto New York and back on one ticket, if you miss the Barcelona to Madrid leg, the rest of the ticket cancels out. Spain’s Supreme Court has now officially declared that this is outside the law. In the eyes of the court, an airline cannot cancel a passengers ticket in the event of a no show, since the passenger paid for all the flights. The passengers only contract was paying, and they did that. This opens the door for a wild variety of travel possibilities.

What It All Means

Say you’re in Madrid, but for whatever reason Tokyo flights are much cheaper out of Barcelona, still flying via Madrid. You’re willing to fly to Barcelona to kick the deal off, but the idea of flying somewhere just to save some money, and fly back to Madrid to begin with seems like a grind. It is, but its one of the most common way to save on flights. Spain’s Supreme Court has now ruled that since you paid for the entire ticket, you should be able to use what you want. If you don’t happen to make it to the first Barcelona to Madrid flight, you should still be able to show up at the Madrid check in counter for your Tokyo flight and carry on. Iberia says it will comply with these new regulations, and at the moment it’s the only affected airline. The ruling should hold immediate effect.

Do you think this powerful new rule will expand beyond Spain?

Gracias a mi mejor amigos Juan Daniel Minguez and Ultima IIamada por las noticias. 

Gilbert Ott

Gilbert Ott is an ever curious traveler and one of the world's leading travel experts. His adventures take him all over the globe, often spanning over 200,000 miles a year and his travel exploits are regularly...

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20 Comments

  1. Wow, finally some common sense in favour of a pax. Of course, we have bought the entire ticket. Why on earth should it all be cancelled if you miss a sector…so many reasons to miss a sector anyway. Well done the Spanish judiciary. It s always been a rip off. That rule. Knowingntheynthe have to sell,you a new full,price ticket, if you still want to travel. Can’t wait to see if the EU adapts this rule.

  2. So now the airlines just won’t offer discounted fares from hidden cities as they do now if(when) people abuse this. Just watch.

    1. Do you believe that airline offers hidden city disocunted fares because they want people to pay no show fees?

      Then you got the idea wrong mate. Hidden city prices are cheaper because of economics and market.

      If SAS/Norwegain offers direct flight from BCN-ARN and IB offers BCN-MAD-ARN, then IB must discount the fare ex BCN since it’s not convinient compared to DY/SK fares.

      So to say..if IB wants to etay in the competition, hidden city ticketing fares are going to stay..contrary to your argument

      1. I understand why hidden city ticketing works, because airlines want to be competive in more markets, but if people abuse the system to take only the hub-hub portion of the flight regularly, there have to be consequences.

        1. @Joans point is the market may not let the airline adjust to consequences as they might like.

          plus not many of us actually know the current rules or would want to exploit them. Other products we buy work like this, why not airline tickets?

          I am sure the airlines systems will rapidly work out the percentage of people that miss their flight from BCN that may still use their segments from MAD, and adjust operations accordingly. As @joans says the market will decide if/what/where they can adjust on price as well, or not.

  3. What about redemptions using Iberia Avios ie. Madrid – London – Madrid – New York, return. ( To save hefty ‘taxes/charges) Not a particularly good example, but you know what i mean.

  4. It’s not that revolutionary, at least in Europe. There are cases in Germany, Austria and Italy as well, but in each case, it’s different. Lufthansa does not have a no-show policy either, but they will reprice the fare if you decide not to take any of your flight segments (technically it al happens with BA flights purchased in Germany). In Austria, something similar happens. Only if you are an Austrian resident, Lufthansa may not reprice the itinerary if you can proof that you can not take the flights due to reasons outside your control. Otherwise, Lufthansa will recalculate the fare. And finally, Italy has the most generous: for tickets purchased in Italy, you can choose not to fly segments of your itinerary, but you need to tell the airline your intention to fly the remaining segments, within 2 to 24h from the departure time of the flight you chose not to fly.
    As you see, in Germany, Austria and Spain it’s only legally binding for some carriers (Iberia in Spain, Lufthansa and BA in Germany, and Lufthansa in Austria). In Italy, all tickets purchased in Italy.

    The Spanish supreme court has essentially given Iberia carte blanche on how to apply the ruling. It may well be that Iberia won’t cancel the itinerary, but instead may reprice your booking.

  5. This ruling has basically already exist in Germany as well. Lufthansa afterwards has only adjusted its General Terms and Conditions to the extent that in the event that a leg has not been flown, the tickets do not become invalid, but are recalculated on the basis of the actual route flown. In addition, an additional fare class has been introduced which allows all segments to be flown in any order. This is exactly what Iberia will be doing in the next few days as well. Thus from my point of view there is no profit at all for the passengers and no reason to get too excited about this ruling.

  6. Has anyone tried skipping the first flight yet ?

    I have a situation where doing so would be very helpful indeed 😉

  7. I have a flight in September; Barcelona to Madrid to Chicago on Iberia. I would love to skip the first leg and only fly the Madrid to Barcelona portion. It would basically get an extra day of holiday if I could do this, and also avoid a 3 hour layover in Madrid. Has anybody tried it yet? I am scared to do it.

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