A furious holidaymaker who had to pay almost £1,000 extra because an airline spelled his wife’s name wrong on her Christmas holiday plane ticket has won his money back after taking them on in court.
Maxime Audet had to stump up for a new ticket after realising at the last minute that his wife Veronique’s name had been spelled with two letters the wrong way round on the booking for their £2,000 festive trip to Canada last year.
German travel giants Lufthansa claimed the error was Mr Audet’s and said they could not correct it administratively, demanding he pay for a whole new ticket or his wife not to travel at all.
But the Deloitte actuary, 34, scored a ‘David and Goliath’ victory over the air giant when he took them to court and – representing himself – had the ‘unreasonable’ charge overturned by a judge.
Maxime Audet has won his money back after taking Lufthansa to court after they charged him almost £1,000 because his wife Veronique’s name had been spelled with two letters the wrong way round on the airline ticket home last Christmas
Judge Susan Jackson found that the spelling mistake was the airline’s fault and not Mr Audet’s – and that they had no right to charge him for a whole new ticket anyway.
She ordered Lufthansa to pay the couple a total of £1,058.41 for the ticket refund, admin costs, interest and court fee.
Speaking afterwards, his wife Veronique LeVasseur, 37, a Eurostar food and drinks buyer, urged others not to give up when they feel they have been wronged by a big company.
‘It’s important to make sure our rights are respected as a customer,’ she said.
‘Usually you can give up. It’s like David and Goliath, but it’s not impossible to win.’
Central London County Court heard Mr Audet made the booking for the December flight from Heathrow to Montreal in September last year so the couple could visit family over Christmas.
But it was not until six days before they were due to fly that he realised that two letters in his wife’s name had been mixed up on the ticket, naming her as ‘Veronqiue’.
Judge Susan Jackson found that the spelling mistake was the airline’s fault and not Mr Audet’s – and that they had no right to charge him for a whole new ticket anyway
He called Lufthansa, but was informed by customer service agents that he would have to pay for a whole new flight ticket or abandon the long-planned trip home.
Although he had bought through the German airline, the flight operator was Air Canada and Lufthansa said a complete new ticket – costing £916 after the original ticket was refunded – would have to be obtained.
‘It was really upsetting,’ he explained outside court. ‘I think my wife was about to cry. It was the week before the trip and everything was planned.
‘Our first reaction was “this isn’t going to happen, we aren’t going to pay”… but it was five or six days before the trip. It was Christmas, either we cancelled the trip or we paid the big money.’
It was not until six days before they were due to fly that he realised that two letters in Veronique’s name had been mixed up on the ticket, naming her as ‘Veronqiue’
After their return to London in January, the couple tried to get a refund from Lufthansa, but it was refused and instead Mr Audet took the airline to court.
He represented himself via a video link, going up against the air giant’s legal team.
‘Six days before the flight, there were no other options other than paying this fee and I believe that this fee is unreasonable,’ he told the judge.
For Lufthansa, barrister Mark Erridge alleged that the spelling mistake was Mr Audet’s and that the airline had every right to refuse to carry a passenger by any name other than that on the ticket.
‘The defendant requires the correct name to be provided when the booking is made,’ he told the judge.
‘In order to remedy that and for the correct name to be provided, an administrative fee is charged and a rebooking has to be made, such that an additional sum has to be paid.
‘That is simply what happened in this case.’
But ruling in favour of Mr Audet, the judge said Lufthansa had failed to provide any internal receipt as evidence that the mistake was down to Mr Audet, rather than an error on the airline’s part.
‘I think it is more likely than not that he would have got his wife’s name correct,’ she said.
‘In my judgment, the mistake was not Mr Audet’s.’
The airline’s defence to the claim was that a new ticket had to be bought from Air Canada and that the cost would be passed on to the passenger, she continued.
‘The defendant has produced no evidence that it was necessary to buy a new ticket and no evidence that they did so,’ she found.
‘The request for that amount of money does not seem to be substantiated.’
There was also nothing in the terms and conditions to say that a new ticket would be needed, she added.
‘It seems to me that the basis for the defence must fail and the claimant must be refunded the sum he paid,’ she added.
‘I can see nothing in the contractual terms which provided for this.’
She ordered Lufthansa to pay Mr Audet a total of £1,058.41 for the ticket refund, admin costs and court fee.
Lufthansa have been approached for comment on the decision.