Per FlyerTalk, a lawsuit was just settled in Indian court between Lufthansa and a passenger who flew the airline’s business class from Mumbai to Dallas via Frankfurt in 2008.
Via the lawsuit:
It is alleged that one of the travellers namely Mr. Vivek Talwar flew from Mumbai to Dalas via Frankfurt on Flight LH751/LH7438 of the opposite party, in Business Class on 01-09-2008. Mr. Talwar was keen to travel by a flight in which the seat was entirely flat, so that he could sleep during the 20 hours journey. When he checked with the airlines before the ticked was re-issued, he was informed that they had flat beds in the Business Class which they had introduced in March 2007. However, Mr. Talwar later discovered that the seat on which he travelled was semi-reclined and not fully flat. As a result, he could not -1- have a comfortable sleep during the journey. When Mr. Talwar complained to the opposite party he was informed that their seats were 170 degree flat.
So the passenger sued for a refund, as well as punitive damages, for “mental harassment and agony.”
The passenger was assuming Lufthansa’s business class would be fully flat based on the following information, which was on the website at the time:
“You can discover, for example, how the ergonomically designed seats provide a high degree of comfort for sitting and sleeping. The seat pitch of up to 152 cm allows you plenty of leg room when seated. The “Private Bed” sleeper seat, which extends to two metres at the touch of a button, will ensure you have a relaxing sleep, whether you lie on your back or your side.”
“There are 48 Business Class seats on board the Airbus A319 and exclusively in the Boeing 737, 44 respectively 56 comfortable Lie-Flat-Seats which extend to almost two metres. Spacious storage areas, a power connection for your laptop and a reading lamp built into your seat help to create ideal working conditions on board.”
This seems to be an argument over semantics, because Lufthansa claims the seats are indeed lie-flat, but not fully flat. Their argument is that lie-flat seats don’t have to be parallel to the floor, and hilariously they use Urban Dictionary to support their argument:
The question which arises for consideration in this complaint is as to whether the Business Class seats provided in the aircrafts of the opposite party at the relevant time were ‘lie-flat seats’ or not. Admittedly, though the seats provided to the Business Class passengers in the aircrafts of the opposite party, at the relevant time were reclining seats, though did not recline upto 180 degree, the recline of the aforesaid seats being to the extent of 170 degree. The case of the opposite party in this regard is that a ‘lie-flat seat’ is different from a fully flat bed which some other airlines such as British Airways were providing at the relevant time and that is why they had chosen to describe them as ‘lie-flat seats’ instead of describing them -2- as fully flat seats/fully flat beds. In support of their contention that a ‘lie-flat seat’ need not recline to 180 degree and convert into a fully flat bed, the opposite party relies upon the following definition of ‘lie-flat seat’ given in Urban Online Dictionary:
“An airline seat that offers a recline of at near 180 degrees, but the angle of the seat is not parallel to the floor, rather a slant towards the floor. These seats are offered by many airlines’ long-haul Business Class flight.”
This flight goes back over seven years, but I totally agree (in theory) with the guy in the lawsuit. How is the average consumer supposed to know the difference between fully flat and lie-flat?
The passenger ended up winning the lawsuit, and Lufthansa was ordered to pay the passenger, the Consumer Welfare Fund, and pay for the cost of litigation:
Considering all the facts and circumstances of the case, I direct the opposite party to pay a sum of Rs.50,000/- as compensation to Vivek Talwar. I also direct the opposite party to deposit Rs.20,00,000/- as compensation with the Consumer Welfare Fund set up by the Govt. of India, by way of a pay order/demand draft in the name of PAO, Ministry of Consumer Affairs, payable at New Delhi. I further direct the opposite party to pay a sum of Rs.10,000/- as the cost of litigation to the complainant. The aforesaid payment and deposit shall be made within six weeks from today.
While suing over this does on one hand seem a bit extreme, I fully agree that angled seats shouldn’t be marketed as being lie-flat.
What do you think — is it okay for airlines with angled seats to market them as lie-flat?