Avianca Loses Lawsuit By Woman Who Paid For Transatlantic 787 1st Class but Was Placed In A300 Economy
It seems Avianca is no longer the customer-centric airline it was a decade ago. The Colombian airline, currently working through Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the US has been cutting back on flyer benefits and amenities while placing up to 24 more seats per plane in its workhorse Airbus A320s. But now, the airline has been sanctioned by the Colombian government for selling a traveler a first-class fare to Madrid, Spain on a widebody Boeing 787 (above photo) but placing her in economy class on a narrowbody Airbus A300.
Though the Boeing aircraft had to be pulled from service due to a maintenance directive, the airline neglected to inform the plaintiff, Ms. Yesica Lizeth Casanova in a timely manner and offer her a refund and other options. Rather, it kept her first class fare and then gave her a take-it-or-leave-it flight on the much smaller and spartan A300 without even a day’s prior notice.
The 10 hour flight took place on January 15 of last year. Casanova took her case to Colombia’s Superintendence of Industry and Commerce. On April 14, according to Colombian daily El Espectador, the entity ruled in Casanova’s favor, granting her compensation of $5,973,000 Colombian pesos.
Rather than pay up, Avianca chose to fight, appealing the case to the Superior Court of Bogota, which also ruled in Casanova’s favor. Avianca could have just paid the modest amount (just over $1500 USD) and compensate Ms. Casanova, who clearly had suffered a “bait & switch,” but it actually took the case to Colombia’s Supreme Court, who again ruled that the woman indeed had paid for but not received “the pleasant experience that Avianca offered through its website and the video it shows on its YouTube portal.”
Contacted by Finance Colombia for its side of the story, Avianca responded in writing, saying “It is worth clarifying that in no way did the court’s decision impose a penalty on the airline. The company respects the decision made by the institution and calls for these cases to be analyzed in depth in order to be able to make assertive decisions for the parties. Likewise, Avianca reiterates its commitment to fulfilling its value proposition for passengers who decide to use an air service, which is adapted day by day to the needs of the market and its customers.”
Had the airline simply made Ms. Casanova whole, this case would not exist. However, the fact that Avianca chose to battle a $1,500 USD refund all the way to Colombia’s supreme court suggests a new, more hostile attitude towards the same passengers it once coddled. Full-service airlines generally are expected to “go the extra nautical mile” for its highest value passengers, those willing to pay for 1st or business class. While all passengers deserve to be treated with decency and respect, it is especially puzzling why Avianca would risk such ill will with its most lucrative segment of travelers.