The British Supreme Court recently ruled against a disabled passenger who was seeking compensation for his ruined holiday and emotional distress, which was allegedly caused by UK travel giant Thomas Cook.
Christopher Stott claimed that the embarrassing ordeal happened on a September 2008 Thomas Cook flight. According to court records, after Stott boarded the flight with the ambulift, his wheelchair overturned and he tumbled to the cabin floor in full view of the other passengers. Stott told the court that he “felt extremely embarrassed, humiliated and angry” and his wife was “extremely distressed.” He argued that he was entitled to thousands of pounds in compensation, and the Equality and Human Rights commission supported his case.
Although Thomas Cook didn’t deny the incident, it did argue the damages. They held that the international Montreal Convention limits air carriers’ liability to death or bodily injury suffered by passengers, and does not allow for damages for emotional distress.
The court ruled in favor of Thomas Cook, and found that in spite of the humiliating manner Stott had been treated, he wasn’t entitled to any damages. The justices held that European civil aviation rules protecting the rights of disabled air passengers were overridden by the restrictive terms of the Montreal Convention, and Stott should not be compensated for his injured feelings. Disabled rights advocates fear this precedent will limit damages in future cases, as it doesn’t adequately penalize air carriers for substandard treatment of disabled passengers.