Schengen Agreement argument fails to support customer’s refusal to transport claim

Gleissner v. Air China Airlines Limited (S.D.N.Y. Feb. 6, 2020).  For a flight from Barcelona to Vienna, Air China refused to allow a member of the plaintiff’s entourage to check in because she lacked a valid visa to enter Austria.  The ticketholder held a single-entry visa for the Schengen Area, an area in Europe that, pursuant to the 1985 Schengen Agreement, allows passport-free movement between signatory countries.  Austria and Spain are signatories to the Schengen Agreement, but China is not a signatory.  The ticketholder had used the single-entry visa to enter Spain.

The plaintiff sued Air China for breach of contract in state court.  The airline removed the case to federal court and moved for summary judgment on the grounds that, as allowed by its conditions of carriage, it properly refused to provide transportation because the ticketholder’s single-entry visa did not entitle her to enter Austria.  In support, Air China submitted evidence that, as a non-European carrier, its flight from Spain to Austria was considered an international flight and, as such, all passengers were required to be processed through border control in both countries.  The plaintiff argued that the flight was not international because both countries were signatories to the Schengen Agreement.

The court ruled that Air China had properly refused to transport the ticketholder because (i) she “had already used her single-entry Schengen visa to enter Spain” and thus did not “possess a visa that would allow her to enter Austria upon arrival in Vienna,” and (ii) the airline had the contractual right to refuse carriage on the grounds that she lacked valid travel documents.  Accordingly, the court granted summary judgment for Air China and subsequently denied the plaintiff’s motion to reconsider its decision.

Leave a Reply