Rabbi Feld headed out to the airport early in the morning. He was flying to the wedding of one of his congregants, Mr. Krauss, who had purchased him a complimentary ticket. Although the wedding was scheduled for late afternoon, they had booked an early flight to allow ample time.
After checking in, Rabbi Feld sat in the boarding lounge, learning his Daf. Across the lounge, he noticed Rabbi Dayan waiting for the same flight. Rabbi Feld went over and introduced himself.
“I’m heading to a wedding in Chicago,” said Rabbi Feld. “By any chance, are you also attending?”
“No,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “I was invited to give a shiur.”
As the talked, an announcement came over the loudspeaker: “Continental flight 473 to Chicago is overbooked. There is an additional flight at 12 p.m. Passengers willing to be rescheduled to that flight will be granted a free round-trip ticket to anywhere that Continental flies. Please approach one of the Continental representatives near the boarding gate.”
Rabbi Feld couldn’t believe his ears. A free ticket to anywhere Continental flies! He could get a free round-trip ticket to Israel in exchange for a few hours’ delay. He looked at his watch. Even with the later flight, he should arrive at 3 p.m., just in time to make the wedding. “Should I risk it?” he thought to himself.
While he considered the issue, he further questioned: Since the family sponsored the ticket, perhaps they would be entitled to the bonus ticket? It was their money, after all.
A few people started heading over to the flight representatives. Rabbi Feld needed to make a quick decision. He turned to Rabbi Dayan and explained the situation. “Can I take the later flight?” he asked. “If I do, who gets the ticket?”
“Whether you can take the later flight depends on what you expect Mr. Krauss would want,” said Rabbi Dayan. “The bonus ticket would certainly belong to you, though.”
Rabbi Feld decided that it would be irresponsible to risk arriving late for the wedding, despite the potential gain.
“Thank you; I’ll keep the flight,” he said to Rabbi Dayan. “Now that we have some time, though, could you please explain the reason for what you said?”
“When a person gives a gift, we evaluate his intention in giving it,” said Rabbi Dayan. “Mr. Krauss clearly bought you a ticket so that you could participate in his simcha. Therefore, you should act with it in accordance with his intention. Presumably, he would not want you to arrive late for the wedding.” (See 241:5; 246:1)
“I probably would just be able to make it, unless there were unexpected delays,” said Rabbi Feld. “Is that acceptable?”
“The same principle applies,” replied Rabbi Dayan. “If Mr. Krauss would be willing for you to take the risk in light of the tremendous gain, it would be permitted. This would likely depend on whether you were asked to be the mesader kiddushin. If you were meant to lead the wedding or take an important role in the chuppah, presumably he would not be willing to have you take any risk; if you were just a guest – albeit an important one – he would probably concede.”
“What about the bonus ticket?” asked Rabbi Feld. “I know that in some cases an agent who bought something and received a bonus must share it with the sender who paid the money [C.M. 183:6]. Here, Mr. Krauss paid for the ticket.”
“Correct, but this does not apply here for a number of reasons,” said Rabbi Dayan. “First, the bonus ticket would be issued under your name. Rashi explains that the bonus is shared because we are unsure to whom the seller intended to give it, the sender who paid the money or the agent who executed the purchase. Accordingly, when the bonus is explicitly designated to the agent, he is entitled to it.” (Rama 183:6)
“But don’t some later authorities question this ruling?” said Rabbi Feld.
“Yes, and some suggest that an agent should share the bonus with the sender even if explicitly given to him,” said Rabbi Dayan. (See Be’er Heiteiv 183:21; S.A. Harav, Mechira #11) “However, the Rashba writes that if the agent received the bonus because he benefited the seller, everyone would agree that it belongs completely to the agent [Ketzos 183:7]. Here, the bonus ticket is not because of the initial purchase, but because you were willing to be bumped from the early flight.”
Rabbi Dayan concluded: “Furthermore, the commercial airline practice is to benefit the bumped individual, regardless of who paid for the ticket. Thus, the principle of hakol keminhag hamedina (everything in accordance with the common commercial practice) applies here.” (331:2)
“Thank you,” said Rabbi Feld. “This will make for an interesting shiur when I return home!”
About the Author: Rabbi Meir Orlian is a faculty member of the Business Halacha Institute, headed by HaRav Chaim Kohn, a noted dayan. To receive BHI’s free newsletter, Business Weekly, send an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org. For questions regarding business halacha issues, or to bring a BHI lecturer to your business or shul, call the confidential hotline at 877-845-8455 or e-mail email@example.com.
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