An Israeli family that was stranded overnight in Rome, because their flight to Tel Aviv had taken off without them while they were stuck without diapers and food for their baby, were awarded by unusually high reparations of about $6,500 by a small claims court, Israel’s Channel 2 News reported Tuesday night.
The Rishon LeZion couple with their five children flew Alitalia from Amsterdam to Tel Aviv with a connecting flight in Rome. The stopover in Rome was supposed to last about 50 minutes. While in Amsterdam, the father of the family alerted company staff to the short interval between the Rome landing and his connecting flight.
“I warned the air crew and asked them to make sure that the inspection in Rome was quick so that we could arrive on time for the connecting flight to Tel Aviv and not miss it,” the father told Channel 2 News. “They reassured me that I had nothing to worry about.”
Of course, the couple and their children were greeted at Rome Airport by a flight attendant who informed them that their flight to Tel Aviv had already left, 36 minutes after they had landed.
Alitalia provided the family with a room for the night at a Rome hotel, but their suitcases, stacked with much needed diapers and baby food, had gone to Tel Aviv ahead of them.
In their complaint, filed against Alitalia in Small Claims Court in Rishon Letzion, the couple claimed that they had been caused great distress. “We landed without suitcases, there was no rooms with five beds in the hotel, so my wife and I split up in two rooms to be with the children,” the father wrote. “We had no change of clothes, none of our equipment and no diapers and baby food.”
In fact, according to the complaint, their flight from Rome to Tel Aviv the next day was eight hours late.
The couple appealed to the company for compensation, and even agreed to a compromise, but were met with a total refusal. Their emails and phone calls were not answered.
An Alitalia representative in Israel claimed the plaintiffs were supposed to apply directly to company representatives abroad with their claims. But Senior Registrar Dalia Estreicher harshly criticized the company’s protocol, whereby without representation in Israel, passengers complaints are dealt with strictly via email.
“Is it conceivable that every time a passenger in Israel needs to contact the defendant to clarify details regarding his or her flight, or customer service, they can only do so by emailing an overseas representative?” Estreicher wrote, wondering if such correspondence was expected to be conducted in Italian.
Noting that the very fact that plaintiffs had to use the court to get the company to pay attention to their concerns is very serious, and ruled compensation to plaintiffs of 21,350 shekel, or about $6,500, as well as court costs of close to $300.